Marijuana has long been at the center of a heated debate over whether the substance’s potential health benefits—it’s been used to relieve chronic pain, reduce epileptic seizures, and even help treat cancer patients—outweigh some of the longterm, lesser-known risks.
And for those of you who like to light up a joint, whether every day or occasionally with your buddies, the stakes just got higher.
Smoking weed is associated with a signifcantly increased risk for stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death, according to new research released Thursday that is set to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session.
The study, which analyzed over 20 million health medical records from adults between the ages of 18 and 55, found that patients who reported marijuana use alone (researchers adjusted their analysis to account for other risk factors) had a 26% higher chance of stroke and a 10% higher chance of developing heart failure.
“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients,” said Aditi Kalla, M.D., the study’s lead author and a cardiology fellow at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. “So that leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects.”
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should boot your bowl altogether. Since the study only used hospital discharge records—and not, say, a broader epidemiological survey of average pot smokers in the broader U.S. population—it may not be reflective of the entire general population. It is, however, important to keep in mind that there are real health risks associated with marijuana, like an increased risk of testicular cancer and worsened short-term memory.
Interestingly enough, one thing science says regular marijuana use doesn’t lead to is weight gain. Smoking pot every day is actually linked to being thinner, according to a massive survey of young people in America.