Whatever medical benefits may come from smoking marijuana, new research raises concern that using cannabis increases the risk of serious heart conditions. French scientists looked at data collected over a five-year period from a network that keeps track of major substance abuse cases.
The results are published online in the current Journal of the American Heart Association. They show there were 35 severe events involving the heart, brain and circulatory system out of 1,979 marijuana-related reports from a French database known as the Addictovigilance Network. Most of these life-threatening issues involved a critical shortage of blood to the heart known as acute coronary syndrome.
This research provides one more reason against using marijuana beyond the drug’s power to addict and then open the door to more dangerous encounters with narcotics. For those who believe marijuana is a desirable alternative to conventional medicine, there are many other natural approaches to relief without exposure to marijuana’s risks.
Nine of the patients in the French study, about 25 percent, died from complications as a result of their illness. Most of the pot users were male and relatively young--on average 34.3 years old. While the study doesn’t show exactly why there’s a correlation between marijuana use and heart problems, the authors believe there’s reason for concern.
“Given that cannabis is perceived to be harmless by the general public and that legalization of its use is debated, data concerning its danger must be widely disseminated. Practitioners should be aware that cannabis may be a potential triggering factor for cardiovascular complications in young people” writes lead researcher Emilie Jouanjus, PharmD, Phd, of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse.
These latest findings should be balanced against research showing that marijuana works against a number of conditions including nerve pain, glaucoma and nausea related to chemotherapy. The authors admit the main problem with their study is that there weren’t enough issues reported overall to say conclusively whether pot was to blame. Still, they believe additional research is needed.
“This result is consistent with previous findings and strengthens the idea that cannabis may be responsible for serious complications, in particular on the cardiovascular system,” concludes Jouanjus.
Now that 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, public health officials need to be increasingly vigilant about monitoring the long-term health effects on users. It would be tragic and ironic if patients hoping for some immediate gain from cannabis wind up paying a very high price in the form of a damaged heart years later.