A new report that dropped this week found that smoking weed isn't good for heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) looked at the connection between cannabis and cardiovascular health and reported that while cannabis has been touted during the past few years for its health benefits, “few are cardiovascular in nature.” But don’t freak out just yet, because it’s complicated. Here’s what you need to know about how smoking weed could affect your heart, long-term.
The AHA compiled their report by combining previous, peer-reviewed research about cannabis and the cardiovascular system and analyzed it in order to make recommendations to cannabis users. The researchers conclusion about cannabis having a negative impact on cardiovascular health isn’t really new, as there has been evidence for some time that smoking weed is not good for your heart. But it’s important to note that the means of consumption — the “smoking” part — appears to be more dangerous than cannabis consumption by other means.
According to the report, weed can potentially interfere with prescribed medications and may "trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes," Robert Page II, a clinical pharmacologist and co-author of the report told CNN. This might be because smoking weed is similar to smoking cigarettes in that it increases carbon monoxide and tar in your blood after smoking it. "Cannabis smoke contains components similar to tobacco smoke," Page said.
But look, no one’s trying to harsh your mellow here. Page also told CNN that if people choose to use weed for its medicinal or recreational effects — edibles, oils, or topical treatments, in particular — it may reduce some of the potential harms since those can be measured into doses. “It is also vitally important that people only use legal cannabis products because there are no controls on the quality or the contents of cannabis products sold on the street,” Page added. This, of course, is complex advice. While he’s absolutely justified in recommending this, legal weed is a total farce when we think about the decades of unjust incarceration of Black and brown people for selling the same products on the street.
The studies the AHA analyzed also indicated that it’s THC (the main compound in cannabis that gets you high) and not CBD (the main non-inebriating compound) that’s the culprit here. CBD does not seem to have adverse effects on heart health, CNN reported. So, your CBD gummies are probably pretty safe, at least for your heart.
Page and the other AHA researchers emphasized that more cannabis research is urgently needed. "The public needs fact-based, valid scientific information about cannabis's effect on the heart and blood vessels," Page told CNN, and went on to explain that using short-term, observational and retrospective studies — which is what they did in this report — can help identify trends but does not actually prove cause and effect.
We don’t currently have enough research about cannabis because it’s still (sigh) categorized as a Schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The AHA researchers recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) essentially take over regulation of cannabis, CNN reported. That would change weed from a substance that is controlled by law enforcement to something that is regulated by the FDA, which in turn, would allow scientists more leeway to do relevant research. Ultimately, that could be a real boost for everyone, especially the 158 million people around the world who use it.