A Closer Look at the ‘Smoking Weed Causes Heart Attacks’ Headline Scare
Every now and then I’ll hear about some new “dangerous aspect” of smoking cannabis, whether it’s your brain shrinking or having more risks of going insane – these reports have been circulating since the dawn of prohibition.
Today we’ll be talking about the latest “SCARE STUDY” where researchers allege that smoking cannabis as young adults nearly doubles your risk of a heart attack.
That’s right – according to this article in CNN – the science is clear and if you’re a young adult you may suffer a heart attack. Except, the science isn’t clear and if you poke this study long enough – it dissolves quite easily.
Today I’ll be taking the old magnifying glass and looking over the processes and conclusions from the research team and compare it with reality. We’ll also be asking a few questions along the way.
So buckle up, let’s get ready to debunk some nonsense!
How the study was done?
The “cross-sectional” study – meaning it’s an observational study that analyzes data of a particular population at one particular point in time.
The major problem with cross-sectional studies is that the way you frame the question vastly influences the results. The parameters you choose to test also plays a major role.
This means with a cross-sectional study you can literally prove that Heavy Metal can lead to increased suicidal tendencies. You can also frame it so that the opposite is true.
This is one of the first points we need to address prior to jumping into the “science” behind the study.
Secondly, the study was being published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by Canadian researchers who used data from the United States.
This is a red flag, because Canada has had legal cannabis for years now and can have empirical data, but the study chose to use information from the CDC instead.
This is what the study said;
We performed a cross-sectional study using pooled data from the 2017 and 2018 cohorts of the American Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey of US adults. We analyzed the association between any recent cannabis use and history of MI using a weighted logistic regression model that adjusted for demographic factors, socioeconomic factors, health-related behaviours, concomitant substance use and other comorbidities. We also assessed this association after stratifying by frequency of use and by primary method of consumption. – SOURCE
Essentially, they took some data, created measurements they thought was important and did some fancy math. Their confidence level is 95%, which means that there may be fluctuations in their results if someone tries to replicate this – let’s say with actual empirical evidence.
What they found?
According to the researchers, their data shows that “young adults” – classified as people between the age of 18 and 44 (WTF?) are 1.3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack if they smoke up to 4 times per month.
This age group got me thinking?
Are 18 year old and 44 year old hearts the same? Why did they include such a wide demographic to create their calculations? Would they have the same results if it were 18-21 year olds? 21-30 year olds? 30-40 year olds?
Nonetheless, according to their numbers – these elements are not important. The 18-year-old heart and the 44-year-old-heart is exactly the same and once they have eliminated all other comorbidities, they came to this conclusion.
When the study contradicts itself!
CNN reported this study to be “true” which will now be used by lawmakers to assess the potential risks of cannabis. Except, within the very study – buried down in the interpretation section you can find this gem…
Although heavy cannabis use has been reported to trigger acute myocardial infarction (MI), the current evidence is limited to case–control studies that are prone to bias and studies relying solely on administrative data.
In other words, they are relying on data that isn’t telling them the whole picture. I’m not saying that cannabis doesn’t have an effect on the cardiovascular system – to say this would be nonscientific.
However, to make conclusions on administrative data is also non-scientific. Even though they utilized complex math to make their conclusions.
Why we need to have better studies?
It seems to me that there are still many studies out there trying to promote the harms of cannabis and while this is not a ‘bad’ thing necessarily, there needs to be equal studies looking at other aspects of cannabis.
When you’re constantly looking for the pathological negative effects of anything – you’ll find it. Especially if you know how to play around with statistical prevalence.
Right now, you’ll begin to hear people talk about the inherent risks of cannabis and cardiovascular health based on this study, which will influence the international discourse on legalization. This influences how we legalize and is disingenuous to the truth behind the plant.
It is because of these studies that prohibition could thrive for so long. They claim these policies are meant to protect us – but what we need is not protection but proper education.
Everything has an inherent risk. Water in the right amount will give you life sustaining hydration – however, take too much water and you’ll remove all of your nutrients which will end up causing some major physiological consequences.
Yet, the fact that water has this inherent risk doesn’t mean we restrict it from people or have the government dictate how much we should or should not drink.
Similarly, we require accurate studies to inform us about our consumption and it’s time we end the grants for these flimsy studies that have no real merit but to say, “We need more research!”
As citizens who often fund these studies with our tax dollars, it is imperative that we place a higher degree of scrutiny on these types of grants – question whether or not the money we spend on making us more informed is actually serving its purpose.
For now, the study has far too many factors that will alter the results that it cannot be taken seriously at all.