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Marijuana Can Cause Strokes, Especially in Young Adults

— February 10, 2022

Marijuana use can have harmful effects, new studies show.

To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis use with even more having already legalized medical marijuana.  Since states have become more open to coming on board with recreational use, the drug has been labeled largely as natural and safe despite the damaging effects it can have on the mind and the body.  There have been several studies as of late that have revealed the negative effects of use, including the risk of strokes.

New research being presented at the 2022 International Stroke Conference (ISC) held online out of New Orleans and online February 9 to 11, for example, shows that use can lead to a stroke should the user have a stroke history or be predisposed with certain physical symptoms and/or lifestyle choices.  Physical risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, and issues with blood vessels or circulation, including atherosclerosis.

Marijuana Can Cause Strokes, Especially in Young Adults
Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels

“Our analysis shows young marijuana users with a history of strokes or transient ischemic attack remain at significantly high risk for future strokes,” said lead study author, Akhil Jain, MD, a resident physician at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Pennsylvania. “It’s essential to raise awareness among young adults about the impact of chronic habitual use of marijuana, especially if they have established cardiovascular risk factors or previous stroke.”

The study involved 9,350 people who were 18 years and older who had been admitted to a hospital and screened for drug use.  Those who tested positive for anything other than marijuana were excluded.  In total, eighteen percent tested positive, the majority of whom were younger males and current smokers.  Of those who tested positive, 130 or 8%, had experienced an ischemic strokes.

Ohio State behavioral scientist Cynthia Fontanella, who works with young people with mood disorders, published another study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics indicating that those with these disorders who use cannabis are at a higher risk of self-harming.

“We noticed a high prevalence of cannabis use and cannabis use disorders in this population.  And we were curious about what the negative effects of that was on their trajectory for mood disorders,” Fontanella explained of the study the team performed.

Young adults might have more risk factors for a stroke than other populations because of other substance abuse, low physical activity, smoking, and the use of oral contraceptives.  The American Heart Association (AHA) has released data showing that stroke rates are increasing, specifically, among adults who are 18 to 45 years of age while young adults account for up to 15%.

Pre-pandemic, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “23% of students said they had used marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to 20% during the pandemic.”  Those who smoke cannabis with the lifestyle habits listed and/or with compromised health could end up in this category.

Moreover, recently released U.S. national drug survey data, “Young adults who use cannabis, either sporadically, daily, or those who have cannabis use disorder, have a significantly increased risk for suicidal thoughts and actions.”

All of these findings show that marijuana use is anything but benign, at least for certain populations, and that consumers should be mindful of this.


Marijuana Use Among Teens, Young Adults Could Increase Suicidality

Does Using Marijuana Affect a Person’s Risk of Stroke?

Chronic Marijuana Use Linked to Recurrent Stroke

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