Heavy cannabis use may be connected to a higher risk of aneurysm or stroke, but more research is needed to draw any firm conclusions.

Cannabis is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in the United States. In 2021 alone, over 52 million adults ages 21 and older reported using cannabis, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Cannabis has a wide variety of uses ― both recreational and medical ― but research suggests that frequent cannabis use may possibly increase the risk of cardiovascular conditions like brain aneurysms and stroke.

Ahead, we’ll explore the research on the potential relationship between cannabis and brain aneurysms and stroke, including how to weigh the benefits and risks of medical cannabis use.

Research on the relationship between edible cannabis use and brain aneurysms or strokes is limited. However, current research suggests that cannabis use may be associated with a higher risk of these types of cardiovascular conditions.

In one early study from 2015, researchers investigated the relationship between cannabis use and hospitalizations for aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. An aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage happens when a brain aneurysm causes a bleed in the brain.

According to the results of the study, after adjusting for other risk factors, recreational cannabis use was associated with an 18% increased risk of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage.

However, the study doesn’t mention the type of cannabis consumed, how much was consumed, or the route of administration, all of which can greatly impact the effects of cannabis.

Another study from 2016 explored the link between heavy cannabis use and the risk of stroke in the general Australian population. Results of this study found that participants who used cannabis at least weekly had an increased risk of nonfatal stroke or transient ischemic attack.

However, the study didn’t control for tobacco use, family history of stroke, hyperlipidemia, or other recreational substance use. Each of these factors can independently increase your risk of a brain aneurysm. The authors also didn’t account for cannabis type, dosage, or route of administration.

In a more recent study published in 2023, researchers investigated the impact of cannabis on delayed cerebral ischemia in people who had experienced aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. Delayed cerebral ischemia, or ischemic stroke, is a potential complication of aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage that can increase the risk of disability.

Results of the study, which spanned a period of 12 years, found that cannabis use was associated with a 2.7 times greater risk of delayed ischemic stroke in study participants. But like the studies mentioned above, cannabis type, dosage, and route of administration weren’t accounted for.

Edibles vs. other forms of cannabis

Because edible cannabis is more highly absorbed and has a stronger effect on the body, it’s more likely to result in cardiovascular events, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

In one 2019 study, researchers found that in cannabis-related emergency room visits, edible cannabis was much more likely to be associated with cardiovascular symptoms.

Still, more double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are needed to fully understand the link between cannabis edibles and brain aneurysm risk.

Cannabis, also known as weed or pot, is a type of plant that contains psychoactive compounds.

Cannabis consists of three different plants ― Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis ― each of which has distinctive botanical properties. It contains over 100 different cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), that can result in feelings of relaxation and euphoria, among others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), short-term cannabis use can affect:

  • attention
  • thinking
  • memory
  • learning
  • decision-making
  • emotions
  • movement
  • coordination
  • reaction time
  • perception of time

The severity of these effects is largely dependent on the amount of THC consumed. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabis products with lower levels of THC will have reduced psychoactive effects compared to those with higher levels of THC.

Cannabis use during pregnancy can cause potential changes in behavior, attention, and other traits in children. In individuals younger than 18 years of age, cannabis use may cause permanent changes in the development of certain areas of the brain, such as learning, attention, and memory.

While frequent cannabis use may increase the risk of cardiovascular complications in certain people, there are potential benefits to using cannabis. In fact, millions of people across the country use medical cannabis to help manage a range of chronic health conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraine, cancer, and more.

In a recent study published in 2023, researchers explored the benefits of medical cannabis on the quality of life for people living with health conditions. Results of the study found that cannabis use was associated with an improvement in areas such as pain, mental health, energy levels, and other quality of life factors.

If you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of medical cannabis use, consider having an honest discussion with your doctor.

Your doctor can review your medical history to make sure that there are no potential health factors that might increase your risk of cardiovascular conditions, like stroke. Together, you can decide if the potential benefits of using medical cannabis outweigh the possible risks.

A brain aneurysm can affect anyone, but there are certain factors that increase the risk of developing a brain aneurysm, including:

  • Genetic risk factors: Inherited or genetic risk factors for brain aneurysms can include connective tissue disorders, polycystic kidney disease, malformed arteries and veins, and a close family history of aneurysms.
  • Health risk factors: Other underlying health conditions may also increase the risk of aneurysms. Health-related risk factors can include head or brain trauma, a brain tumor, untreated high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.
  • Lifestyle risk factors: Certain lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking, drug misuse disorder, and being over 40 can all increase the risk of potentially developing a brain aneurysm.

Some of these risk factors, such as genetics and age, can’t necessarily be changed. However, you can reduce your risk of a brain aneurysm by taking care of your health, quitting cigarette smoking if you smoke, and getting treatment for any underlying health conditions or substance use disorders.

Some studies suggest that frequent cannabis use may increase the risk of cardiovascular-related conditions in certain people, including both brain aneurysms and stroke. For people who have experienced aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, cannabis use appears to be associated with an increased risk of complications that can lead to disability.

Keep in mind that the current research around cannabis use and brain aneurysm risk has several limitations. More high quality research is needed to fully understand the potential link between the two.

If you’re concerned about your risk of brain aneurysm or stroke due to the use of recreational or medical cannabis edibles, consider reaching out to your doctor to discuss your concerns.