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Study: Tobacco smoking harms the heart more than cannabis use


Tobacco calcifies cardiac arteries more than pure cannabis consumption

The use of marijuana is always associated with dramatic health consequences. Among other things, it is said to increase the risk of myocardial infarction, since it ensures harmful deposits in the arteries of the heart. But it is not the consumption of cannabis as such that is responsible, but above all tobacco smoke, as researchers have now found out.

Health consequences of marijuana use

Especially since the law change, which makes it easier for seriously ill patients to receive cannabis on prescription, the health consequences of marijuana use have been in the public interest. Although there have already been scientific studies that have found that smoking the drug has no significant effects on physical health, on the other hand, deaths from hashish have also been detected. A recent study has now shown that the risk to the heart associated with cannabis use is primarily caused by tobacco smoke.

It is better to smoke cannabis without tobacco

According to experts, cannabis should only be smoked without tobacco in order to reduce the health consequences for users.

The fact that this advice should be followed is also clear from the results of a long-term study led by the University of Bern.

Long-term cannabis use has been repeatedly associated with plaque deposits in the heart. However, the Swiss scientists have now been able to prove that it is not the consumption of cannabis per se, but tobacco smoke that is the main trigger.

Harmful to the cardiac arteries

It is already known that tobacco smoking forms plaques and thus increases the risk of heart attack. It has not yet been investigated whether cannabis use has the same effect, according to a statement from the University of Bern.

A long-term study over 25 years under the direction of Prof. Reto Auer from the Bern Institute of Family Medicine (BIHAM) has now shown that regular cannabis use is only harmful to the arteries if cannabis is used with tobacco.

"Our study confirms the strong and consistent link between tobacco use and the formation of plaques," said Auer. "Cannabis users smoke a lot of tobacco and thereby increase their risk of heart attacks."

Data from two and a half decades

Data from the long-term study CARDIA was used for the investigations, which has been investigating the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and its risk factors in young adults since 1985.

It records, among other things, the cannabis and tobacco use of over 5,000 participants in the United States over 25 years, starting in early adulthood.

For the present study, 3,498 middle-aged participants were considered, who had typical cannabis and tobacco exposure in their environment and who had been tobacco and cannabis use over 25 years.

In the 25th year, calcium was measured in the cardiac and abdominal arteries using computer tomography. The researchers used the measurements to investigate the relationship between years of cannabis and tobacco use and hardening of the arteries.

Of the 3,498 participants examined, 89 percent had computed tomography. Plaques had formed in 60 percent of these subjects.

Of these 3,117 people with plaques, 84 percent reported cannabis use, but only 6 percent used it daily. In contrast, 49 percent smoked tobacco every day.

Do not underestimate the adverse effects of tobacco use

As the scientists expected, there was a strong correlation between tobacco smoke exposure in the past and plaque build-up in the cardiac and abdominal arteries.

However, there was no evidence of this connection among those cannabis users who had never smoked tobacco. The researchers found a trend towards an increased risk of atherosclerosis only in people with very high cannabis consumption.

"However, we have to interpret these results carefully because only a few participants were so exposed," said Auer.

Overall, cannabis use more often had only a weak effect on the calcification of abdominal arteries.

"We have already shown in a previous study that cannabis and heart attacks are not associated," said co-author Stephen Sidney, MD, principal investigator of the CARDIA study.

"On the other hand, we clearly see the adverse effects of tobacco consumption - or in other words: the accompanying effects when cannabis is consumed with tobacco should not be underestimated," explained Auer. (ad)

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