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Cannabis Use Linked to Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

New Study Suggests Cannabis Use Increases Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. 4.7.24

Medicaid Planning Rhode Island
Attorney RJ Connelly III

"The use of cannabis products by older adults has been a topic of discussion in our blogs for the past few years, especially since the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in most of New England," stated professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "We've emphasized the importance of understanding that individuals can have different reactions to cannabis, and these reactions can vary each time they use it. The potency of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) in the plant has increased significantly over the years."

This statement is indeed true. In 1994, variations of the plant contained about 4% THC, but today, these amounts have spiked. According to a National Library of Medicine study, the drug's potency has tripled. This means that baby boomers who have used cannabis in the past may have a far different experience with it today. Additionally, older adults need to be particularly cautious, as age-related changes can make them more vulnerable to potential harm from cannabis use. They are a vulnerable group due to interactions with medications, impaired driving, adverse mental health effects, and an increased risk of falls and memory issues.

Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

"Now, a recent study suggests that daily cannabis users have a 25 percent increased risk of a heart attack and a 42 percent increased risk of a stroke," stated Attorney Connelly. "This new study, published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association and funded by the National Institutes of Health, revealed that cannabis smoke raises the risk of heart attacks similarly to that of tobacco smoke."

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Cannabis use may raise heart attack risk

Abra Jeffers, a data analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a former researcher at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, stated that cannabis use should be considered an increased risk factor for heart disease, along with other substances. "We know that toxins are released when cannabis is burned, similar to those found in tobacco smoke," said Jeffers.


Researchers have long been aware of the association between smoking tobacco and heart disease, and this research provides evidence that smoking cannabis may also be a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. This suggests that cannabis use could be a significant but often overlooked risk factor for heart disease.

Dr. Salomeh Keyhani, a professor of medicine at UCSF and the senior author of the study, also stated separately that as the use of cannabis surpasses that of tobacco, cannabis use could potentially surpass smoking as a leading cause of heart disease, meaning that cannabis use alone could become a more significant risk factor.

Other Concerns for Older Adults

"The number of Americans aged over 65 who have reported using marijuana has nearly tripled over the past decade," said Attorney Connelly. "According to a well-regarded federal survey on drug use, the percentage increased from 11 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2019. Additionally, over half of the demographic aged 60-64 reported using cannabis, reflecting another notable uptick in usage. This opens the door for other health issues as well."

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Other dangers associated with cannabis use

Frequent use of cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis can pose significant risks to both physical and mental health. In addition to potentially increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, long-term cannabis use has been associated with a heightened likelihood of experiencing psychosis and schizophrenia. It can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression and impair memory, focus, and decision-making abilities. Furthermore, regular smoking of cannabis can lead to various respiratory issues such as a sore throat, hoarse voice, persistent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and chronic bronchitis.

Cannabis also has the potential to interact with a wide range of medications, which can have significant implications for a senior's health. These medications include pain relievers, heart medications, blood thinners, sleeping aids, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antibiotics, antifungal medications, allergy medications, cold and flu remedies, heartburn medications, anti-seizure drugs, HIV/AIDS treatments, and ADHD medications. It's important to be aware of these potential interactions and consult with a healthcare professional before using cannabis in conjunction with any of these medications.

A Final Word

"To date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's statistics indicate that up to 30% of individuals who use cannabis regularly in the United States may meet the criteria for marijuana use disorder, and this underscores another one of the potential consequences associated with cannabis use," stated Attorney Connelly. "Remember, before using cannabis for medical purposes, you should always consult with a healthcare provider. While evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of cannabis for treating medical conditions is still emerging, it is crucial to consider that the limited available evidence is not specific to older adults. We will continue to update you on the continued research about cannabis with this age group."

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider

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