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Marijuana's impact on the heart

French study shows pot users at risk of cardiovascular complications.
French study shows pot users at risk of cardiovascular complications.
Photo by Photo by Meg Roussos

Although advocates of medical marijuana have touted its positive effects in treating patients with a wide range of devastating diseases and disorders, including cancer and epilepsy, to name but two, scientists in France have issued a warning that that recreational use of the drug could lead to cardiovascular-related problems.

According to two studies conducted by Dr. Emilie Jouanjus of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France, 2% of 1,979 participants (ranging in age from their early their 20’s to early 50’s) who had a history of using marijuana, suffered from heart complications. These included “20 users stricken by heart attacks, 10 with damage to blood vessels in their limbs, 3 with damage to the arteries leading to the brain, and 9 dying from cardiovascular complication.” A similar study in New Zealand tied marijuana use to a higher risk of stroke.

Although it is not uncommon for people in the general population to suffer from these problems, Jouanjus stated that her findings were most startling because the average age of those in the study was 34 years old. As a result, there is now a call for further investigation of potentially adverse affects of the drug use as more and more states look to legalize it for medical purposes. In fact, this, and a similar report by a joint team of researchers from Harvard University and Northwestern University (released earlier this month) warned that even casual use of marijuana by young adults (smoking joints once or twice weekly) poses a risk of developing seriously altering the functions in two areas of the brain which control “emotions and motivation.”

Both reports come at a crucial time for New York State, where debates are now raging as to whether or not it should become the 21st state to allow a broad program legalizing marijuana to be used for medical treatments. At present Governor Andrew Cuomo remains opposed to the proposed legislation.