Tobacco smoking harms the heart more than cannabis consumption

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The use of marijuana is repeatedly associated with dramatic health consequences. Among other things, he should increase the risk of heart attack, as he cares for harmful deposits in the coronary arteries. But it is not the cannabis consumption itself, but mainly responsible for the tobacco smoke, as researchers have now found out.

Especially since the change in the law, which makes it easier for seriously ill patients to receive cannabis by prescription, the health consequences of marijuana use are in the interest of the general public. While there have been scientific studies that concluded that the smoking of the drug has no significant impact on physical health, on the other hand, hashish deaths have been detected. A recent study has shown that the danger to the heart associated with cannabis use is primarily due to tobacco smoke.

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

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

Although long-term cannabis use has been repeatedly associated with deposits in the arteries of the heart (plaques). However, the Swiss scientists have now been able to prove that it is not cannabis consumption itself but tobacco smoke that is the main trigger.

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

A 25-year long-term study led by Prof. Reto Auer of the Bern Institute for Family Medicine (BIHAM) has now shown that regular cannabis use is harmful to the arteries of the heart only if cannabis is consumed with tobacco.

“Our study confirms the strong and consistent link between tobacco consumption and the formation of plaques,” says Auer. “Cannabis users smoke a lot of tobacco, increasing their risk of heart attack.”Data from the long-term CARDIA study have been used since 1985 to investigate the development of atherosclerosis and its risk factors in young adults.

It covers, among other things, the cannabis and tobacco consumption of more than 5,000 participants in the United States for over 25 years, beginning in early adulthood.

The present study looked at 3,498 middle-aged participants who had a typical cannabis and tobacco exposure in their environment and who had collected tobacco and cannabis for over 25 years.

In the 25th year the calcium in the cardiac and abdominal arteries was measured by computed tomography. The researchers used the measurements to investigate the relationship between years of cannabis and tobacco consumption and arteriosclerosis.

Of the 3,498 participants, 89 percent had computed tomography. In 60 percent of these subjects plaques had formed.

Of these 3,117 people with plaques, 84 percent reported cannabis use, but only six percent consumed daily. By contrast, 49 percent smoked tobacco daily.

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

However, for those cannabis users who had never smoked tobacco, this relationship was undetectable. Only in those with very high cannabis use did researchers find a trend towards an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

“But we have to interpret these results carefully, because only a few participants were so exposed,” said Auer.

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

“We have already shown in an earlier 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 use – or in other words, the accompanying effects of consuming cannabis with tobacco are not to be underestimated,” explained Auer.

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