Review of over 50,000 people finds no link to cannabis use and an increase in cardiovascular disease

| Staff

A recent retrospective study of over 50,000 people concludes that, contrary to other research, there is little evidence to suggest cannabis use has an association with the prevalence of cardiovascular disease.

The review, posted in December, 2020, surveyed individuals who used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) database and answered all the questions in the survey in relation to cannabis use and the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease in 2017. The analysis included 56,742 subjects.

The study sought to look at the potential impact of a growing number of cannabis users worldwide, which it estimates to be around 200 million people. Although the study concludes that their review shows little connection to cannabis and negative impacts on cardiovascular, it also highlights the need for more in-depth research on the subject.

The BRFSS data used in this review was gathered via random telephone surveys given in nine US states; Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

Respondents in the survey in these states were asked to answer a series of questions about cannabis use, if they had a history of heart attacks or cardiovascular disease, as well as age, gender, race, weight, income, levels of exercise, mental health, and well as tobacco and alcohol use. 

The associations between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease, as well as among other baseline features and cardiovascular disease, were then analyzed, removing any responses that had incomplete data. 

Of the 56,742 results surveyed, 3,412 reported some form of cannabis use, with people under the age of 65 being more likely to report use. Cannabis users in the survey were also more likely to be male and more likely to exercise regularly. Tobacco and alcohol use was more common among those who reported using cannabis than those who reported not using it, and were more likely to report issues with depression than non-users.  

Only 5.5% of subjects that reported using cannabis also reported having cardiovascular disease, compared to 8.2% among non-cannabis users. 

Although the results of the study were considered not statistically significant, the review showed that there was a decrease in the prevalence of cardiovascular events with cannabis use. The study also notes their findings are contradicted by a review of other studies looking at the issue, several of which found an increase in prevalence of cardiovascular issues among cannabis users, highlighting the need for further, more conclusive research on the subject. 

It also notes several limitations of the BRFSS review, including that it’s results were all self-reported, noting that some cannabis users may not be completely open about their cannabis use. Nonetheless, the study concludes that there is no link to cannabis use and an increase in cardiovascular disease.