Strokes account for roughly 1 in every 20 deaths in the US annually. Some reports have suggested that there’s a link between cannabis and strokes but is the evidence there?
The new study, published May 7th, entitled “Association Between Recent Cannabis Use and Acute Ischemic Stroke” was headed up by Carmela San Luis and published on Neurology.org. It looked at the alleged connection between cannabis use and ischemic stroke, basically concluding there is none.
Previous studies have linked cannabis to strokes, like a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Stroke. That study found that the risk of ischemic stroke could be increased as much as 29 percent among the recreational cannabis community. While that study wasn’t the clearest in terms of findings, it did send shockwaves around many circles.
Dr. Bonni Goldstein, Medical Director at Canna-Centers Wellness & Education in California, said, “The studies that come out on the dangers of cannabis have many issues in terms of direct causation,” according to a Weedmaps report. “It is extremely difficult to separate out the vast number of variables that confound these types of studies,” she said.
For a start, risk of stroke is down to many factors, including health conditions and obesity. That 2018 also didn’t have clarity on risk connected to dosage. That means that a lot of factors and variables were excluded from the conclusions. For example, the study didn’t take into accounts factors such as alcohol, tobacco, or pharmaceutical drugs.
According to Goldstein, without those variables, the review is “not particularly useful.” As Goldstein pointed out, “The authors of this report state that they cannot establish causation between the risk of stroke and recreational cannabis use, and this is unfortunate because they are putting out a headline which is meant to scare people,” she said.
While there’s a lot of evidence around that cannabis and CBD help with a range of medical issues, there’s also some proof that cannabis isn’t great for those with specific heart issues. Doctors will often encourage patients to take low doses of cannabis, and lower doses of THC, and to take more CBD-dominant medications. There are no studies to date, concluding that cannabis is harmful to the heart. While it can increase blood pressure in some, that doesn’t mean it leads to heart attacks.
Another study published in 2017 in the American Heart Association Journal Stroke Issue, looked at nearly 50,000 men from Sweden and found no connection between cannabis and heart disease or strokes. And according to Goldstein, cannabis may even reduce stroke risk factors in some people.
“Interestingly, cannabinoids have been shown to be neuroprotective antioxidants which support the brain, and CBD has been shown to be protective against stroke,” she said. There’s evidence to back that up too, like this Swiss study from 2010 which concluded that CBD – a compound in cannabis, “exerts positive pharmacological effects in ischemic stroke and other chronic diseases.”
Goldstein also pointed out that the review connecting stroke with cannabis was not published in a peer-reviewed journal and goes against other research, which seems to conclude the exact opposite about cannabis. Researchers are even looking into cannabis compounds as a realistic option for targeted post-stroke inflammation treatment, meaning that cannabis could potentially be used to treat stroke victims.
A lot more research is needed to understand how cannabis and CBD interact with human health conditions, to ascertain whether they are effective or not.