Clinical Edge

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Lifetime Marijuana Use, Atherosclerosis Examined

Addiction; ePub 2018 Jan 21; Auer, Sidney, et al

Marijuana use appears to be associated with subclinical atherosclerosis, but only among ever tobacco users, according to a recent study. Researchers used data (n=3,498) from the US-based Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, a cohort of black and white men and women aged 18–30 years at baseline in 1985–86, with up to 7 follow-up examinations over 25 years. They found:

  • Among 3,117 participants with abdominal artery calcium (AAC) and coronary artery calcium (CAC) measurements, 2,627 (84%) reported past marijuana use and 1,536 (49%) past daily tobacco smoking.
  • Compared with tobacco smokers, 46% of whom reported ≥10 pack-years of use, only 12% of marijuana users reported ≥5 marijuana-years of use and only 6% reported having used marijuana daily.
  • Among those who never smoked tobacco, cumulative marijuana-years were not associated with AAC or CAC in models adjusted for demographics, cardiovascular risk factors, licit and illicit drug exposure, and depression symptoms.
  • However, among ever tobacco smokers, marijuana exposure was associated with AAC and CAC.


Auer R, Sidney S, Goff S, et al. Lifetime marijuana use and subclinical atherosclerosis: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. [Published online ahead of print January 21, 2018]. Addiction. doi:10.1111/add.14110.

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