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French study links marijuana use to potential heart problems

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Supporters of legalizing marijuana have long stood by claims of the plant’s overall safety. However, new research raises questions about pot’s effect on the cardiovascular system and brain.

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Based on past week Journal of the American Heart Association, medical scientists in France concluded that recreational marijuana use may result in cardiovascular-related complications, and possibly even death, among young and middle-aged adults.

Both teams on a separate study, made earlier this month, scientists in this country examined the impacts of marijuana among young casual users and found different brain abnormalities directly traceable to pot.

As the debate sharpens in Albany, with respect to new research, and lawmakers fight over whether New York should become the 21st state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo opposes to a broad medical marijuana program in spite of increasing number of legislators here – and in other states – who support such a plan. They are joined in favor of patients with cancer, epilepsy and a wide range of other devastating disorders.

As far as approval is concerned on marijuana a good medicine, however, studies are revealing a dismal side to the drug.

“We identified several remarkable cases of cardiovascular complications as the reasons for hospital admission of young marijuana users,” Dr. Emilie Jouanjus, of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France, said in a statement last week.

Based on the study of Jouanjus and colleagues discovered, a group of 1,979 adults who had a history of marijuana use, most of them men who ranged in age from their 20s through early 50s, that nearly 2 percent had heart complications. The average age of patients was 34.

The occurrence of 20 users suffered heart attacks; 10 had the peripheral vascular disease, marked by damaged to blood vessels in the limbs. Three had damage to arteries that supply blood to the brain. Nine patients, the study said, died of cardiovascular complications.

Jouanjus said: While heart attacks and other cardiovascular complications are found frequently in large populations everywhere, these cases were unique, because the people were, for the most part, quite young.

“This unexpected finding deserved to be further analyzed, especially given that the medicinal use of marijuana has become more prevalent, and some governments are legalizing its use.”

Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, said research about marijuana’s deleterious effects have been overshadowed by popular ideas about its beneficial profile.

“Marijuana got that profile because it has definitely been helpful for pain,” Krakower said. “It has analgesic effects.”

However, in addition to cardiovascular disorders, the plant has been linked to addiction, lung cancer and neuro-cognitive problems, he said,

Krakower said Jouanjus’ research isn’t the first to raise a concern about the plant’s potential to cause vascular problems.

Marijuana users have a higher risk of stroke compared with people who do not use the drug as statement made in January, as scientists from New Zealand scientist.

Krakower thinks physiological risks related to marijuana’s repeated usage.

Marijuana does have an addiction potential, said Krakower, who is on the substance abuse and addiction committee for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Adolescent marijuana users are more likely to develop marijuana dependence,” he said.

At the same time, a joint team of researchers from Northwestern and Harvard universities proved earlier this month that young adults that use marijuana casually develop significant abnormalities in two key brain regions important to emotion and motivation.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to demonstrate that recreational marijuana use is related to major brain changes. Smokers, on average, used the drug once or twice a week.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said Dr. Hans Breiter, co-author of the report.

Krakower, who is on the board of directors of the Greater Long Island Psychiatric Society, said he’s not surprised by the results. “We have known for some time that marijuana [use] causes changes in the brain.”

Source: Newsday

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