While some early studies suggest that cannabis can ease mental tension and even treat headaches and migraines, other studies indicate that cannabis could trigger strokes. But new research from neurologists at the University of Mississippi Medical Center found nothing that linked weed use with ischemic attacks in the brain.
The study, published Wednesday at the online edition of Neurology Clinical Practice, looked at hospital data for 9,350 adults aged 18 or older. All of the patients were subjected to urine screens for drug use, including weed. Of those 9,350 patients, 18 percent, or 1,643 of them, tested positive for cannabis.
“Those who tested positive were more likely to be male, younger, and current smokers than those who tested negative,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s website EurekAlert! reported.
Among the 1,643 patients who tested positive for pot, 130 of them, or 8 percent, suffered an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. Among the remaining patients who tested negative for pot, 16 percent suffered an ischemic stroke.
But, before you go thinking that smoking weed may have reduced the potheads’ risk of stroke, know that the “8 versus 16 percent” figure was based on raw data. After the researchers corrected the data for other stroke-risk factors, like heart conditions, age, obesity, sickle cell disease, and smoking, the numbers revealed no significant differences in stroke occurrences between the cannabis-consuming group and non-cannabis-consuming group.
Furthermore, a urine screen with no follow-up questionnaire only tells the researchers that the patient recently sparked up. Urine screens don’t indicate how frequently someone consumes cannabis, nor for how long they’ve been consuming.
"Previous studies that investigated cannabis use and risk of stroke have had conflicting results, some showing a decreased risk and others showing a greatly increased risk," Dr. Carmela V. San Luis, MD, a neurologist at the University of Mississippi in Jackson who co-authored the study, said in a press release. "Our observational study looked specifically at recent cannabis use by reviewing drug testing data for people admitted to the hospital. While more research is needed with larger numbers of people, our study lends support to the studies showing that cannabis use does not increase the risk of stroke."
San Luis also said that her group’s research adds “to the list of studies with conflicting results” regarding cannabis use and stroke risk. In 2018, one study claimed that smoking weed could increase a toker’s risk of ischemic stroke by 29 percent. Another study published in 2019 claimed that frequently puffing a phat bowl could double the risk.
But other studies have painted a very different picture. A 2019 study said there was no association between cannabis consumption and strokes, much like San Luis’s study did. And one 2017 study in Neuropsychopharmacology found the opposite: That smoking weed reduces the chances of stroke, potentially due to THC’s effects on lowering blood pressure.
Ironically, the University of Mississippi, which conducted the latest weed-and-stroke study, is the same institution that grows the US government’s moldy weed — which is also the only weed that American medical scientists are legally allowed to use in their studies.
Let’s just hope that any future clinical investigations into cannabis and cardiovascular issues involve only clean, dank bud. No stems. No seeds. No sticks.