The longer a person smokes marijuana or cigarettes, the more likely they are to experience metabolic disorders that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a study from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
The researchers analyzed data from the 2011-2012 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an annual interview of about 5,000 people conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Through the survey data, researchers found that increased years of smoking marijuana or cigarettes was associated with symptoms of metabolic syndrome in adults, including abdominal obesity, elevated arterial blood pressure, imbalanced levels of blood sugar hormones and elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. The study also found that marijuana use, similar to cigarette smoking, is associated with hypertension.
The study defined regular marijuana users as those who reported smoking marijuana at least once a month for more than a year and current cigarette smokers as those who reported having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and still smoke either every day or some days.
The study’s findings have been accepted for publication in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews in an article titled “A Cross-sectional Analysis of the Association between Marijuana and Cigarette Smoking with Metabolic Syndrome among Adults in the United States.” The study’s lead author is Barbara Yankey, a PhD student at the School of Public Health; Drs. Sheryl Strasser and Ike Okosun, associate professors of public health at Georgia State University, are co-authors.
The authors noted that while extensive literature recognizes cigarette smoking as a significant risk behavior for several chronic diseases, little is known about the relationship between marijuana use and chronic disease.
“In the U.S., public opinion for marijuana seems to be changing to legalization,” the researchers stated. “With the inclination for recreational marijuana use, this relationship may be considered critically to avert future metabolic complications.”