Associations between cannabis use and retinal vessel diameter in young adults

Melanie Hill, Tien Y. Wong, Mary Davis, Madeline Meier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cannabis appears to have vascular effects that may have implications for cerebrovascular function, but no studies have directly visualized the microvasculature in living cannabis users. The current study used retinal imaging, a tool taken from ophthalmology, to visualize the small retinal microvessels in cannabis users. We compared retinal arteriolar (small arteries) and venular (small veins) diameters in 55 frequent cannabis users and 51 comparison individuals with a mean age of 19.25 years (SD = 2.43). Results indicated that mean arteriolar diameter was statistically significantly wider for cannabis users (M = 157.98, SE = 1.42) than for comparison individuals (M = 153.56, SE = 1.46; F(1,103) = 4.67, p =.033), even after controlling for a variety of covariates and after excluding from analyses cannabis users who had used cannabis in the past 24 h. There was no statistically significant difference in retinal venular diameter between cannabis users and comparison individuals. Findings suggest that frequent cannabis use is associated with wider retinal arterioles, which might represent a residual vasodilatory effect of recent cannabis use or impaired autoregulation resulting from chronic cannabis use. Retinal imaging is a non-invasive, cost-effective tool for visualizing the microvasculature in living individuals and can be combined, in future research, with neuroimaging and other measures of retinal vascular function to better understand the acute and longer-term effects of cannabis use on the microvasculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Arterioles
  • Marijuana
  • Microvasculature
  • Retinal imaging
  • Venules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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