There is no link between medical marijuana use and increased stroke risk, confirmed a new analysis that contradicted the findings from several older studies.

The observational study conducted by a team of neurologists at the University of Mississippi Medical Center which included over 9000 individuals analyzed the risks and benefits as the use of marijuana is on the rise.

“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. 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,” News Wise quoted the study’s lead investigator Carmela San Luis, MD, of the University of Mississippi in Jackson and a member of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

The Study:

The research included 9,350 individuals above 18 years of age who had been admitted to a hospital and screened with a urine test to detect drug usage. The researchers excluded those who tested positive for drugs other than marijuana.

Key findings:

  • 18% of them (1,643 people) tested positive for marijuana use
  • Most of them were male, younger individuals who smoke, compared to those who tested negative for marijuana
  • Amongst those who tested positive, 8% had an ischemic stroke
  • And of those who tested negative, 16% had an ischemic stroke
  • When adjusted for other risk factors of stroke such as age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, and sickle cell disease, there was no association between recent marijuana use and an increased risk of stroke

The researchers have only found an association between recent marijuana use and stroke risk and their findings did not really prove that marijuana risk had no effect on a person’s stroke risk.

Also, the study captured only whether the participants had recently used marijuana and didn’t collect any information pertaining to the participants’ history of cannabis use.

“Our research adds to the list of studies with conflicting results, so it is important to continue to investigate stroke risk and cannabis use. Future studies are now needed in larger groups of people that not only include data from drug screenings but also dosing amounts as well as a person’s history of cannabis use,” News Wise quoted San Luis.

People smoke marijuana in West Hollywood, California in 2009
People smoke marijuana in West Hollywood, California in 2009 AFP / Frederic J. BROWN