Cannabis Products May Double the Risk of Heart Attack in Young Adults

An increase risk of heart attack in young adults with cannabis use is explained by Electrophysiologist Dr. Andrea Tordini

New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has shown that young adults who consume cannabis products have a significantly higher likelihood of heart attack when compared to those that abstain from the drug. For some background, cannabis containing products are those that contain the compound THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana.

This was a retrospective study that looked at the outcomes of 30,000 18- to 44-year-olds who had consumed a cannabis product within the past month. The researchers studied how many of these patients went on to have a heart attack. Approximately 1.3% of cannabis users later had a heart attack versus .8% of non-cannabis users.

Why does this matter to arrhythmia patients?

One of the mechanisms by which cannabis use may increase the risk of heart attack in young people revolves around altered heart rhythm or arrhythmia. We are finding more evidence that cannabis use is contributing to heart rhythm disorders in younger and younger patients. While we do not fully understand the mechanism behind this, there is probably a correlation between the increased potency of today’s THC products versus those of a generation ago. We know that the THC today can be tens of times stronger than traditional marijuana-based products. As we have discussed before, one of the biggest concerns of atrial fibrillation or Afib, the most common arrhythmia in the US and around the world, is the five-fold increased risk in stroke as well as the significantly increased risk of heart attack and long-term heart failure.

Further contributing to the concern about cardiovascular issues is the fact that THC use may alter the effectiveness of certain medications for cardiovascular issues including anticoagulants or blood thinning medication. Anticoagulants are often the first medical treatment for patients with cardiovascular disease and certain arrhythmias. If these medicines were to lose some effectiveness, we would expect an increase in heart attack and stroke.

The bottom line

While marijuana is being legalized around the United States, much remains to be understood about its effects on the body and especially on the heart. From studies like these, we understand that cannabis products are not completely safe and may cause considerable issues, even in younger populations. Of course, if you experience any abnormal heart concerns and believe you are having a medical emergency, visit your closest ER or call 911 immediately. If you are experiencing an arrhythmia, visiting a qualified electrophysiologist like Dr. Tordini can start the treatment process early. Even young adults can benefit from comprehensive arrhythmia treatment and early treatment often leads to better outcomes.

Karim S. Ladha, Nikhil Mistry, Duminda N. Wijeysundera, Hance Clarke, Subodh Verma, Gregory M.T. Hare, C. David Mazer. Recent cannabis use and myocardial infarction in young adults: a cross-sectional study. CMAJ Sep 2021, 193 (35) E1377-E1384; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.202392

Dr. Tordini is a part of Florida Medical Clinic in Tampa

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