Connection Suspected Between Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular Symptoms

Connection Suspected Between Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular Symptoms

Connection Suspected Between Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular Symptoms

Connection Suspected Between Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular SymptomsThe growing trend toward legalization and deregulation of marijuana in the U.S. has the science community scrambling to compile research and initiate new studies to determine the impact that marijuana has on health and communities.

The insight gained from research on marijuana’s effects can inform policymakers as they determine the level of regulation necessary to keep marijuana use safe. In addition, healthcare providers need the information to better know how to treat patients who have been using marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes. 

An article published in the Los Angeles Times: Science Now highlights new findings that suggest there may be a connection between marijuana use and certain cardiovascular events.

A government-sponsored data tracking effort in France showed that in a 5-year period 1,979 patients were treated for serious health problems related to marijuana use. In approximately 2 percent of the cases, the patients had symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease. These included heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In about one-quarter of those cases that involved cardiovascular symptoms, the patient died.

Likewise, in the U.S. there are reports of otherwise healthy young patients requiring care in an emergency department. These patients are reporting symptoms of cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke. The physicians have noted in the case reports that the young people are also regular marijuana users.

While neither of these examples meets the criteria for showing any type of cause-and-effect relationship, the findings may be enough to raise a red flag. A report appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association included a warning that there may be serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use.

Such a warning may lead to further research into the potential cause-and-effect relationship between marijuana and cardiovascular symptoms. The increasing popularity of the drug could mean that more people are being exposed to a potential risk for serious medical problems.

The cardiologists who authored the report recommended data collection efforts designed to determine the impact of marijuana on the cardiovascular system, focusing on the population of marijuana users in the U.S.

Lead author of the study in France, Emilie Jouanjus, whose research was also published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, said that there is “compelling evidence” that should alert experts to the possible connection between marijuana and adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. Jouanjus said that cardiologists should treat marijuana use as a potential cause of cardiovascular disease in their patients.

In an editorial about the findings, Dr. Sherief Rezkalla and Dr. Robert Kloner suggested that there may be enough evidence to warrant cautioning cardiovascular patients against the use of marijuana. Other risks known to be connected with cardiovascular disease include sedentary behavior, high blood pressure, obesity and certain types of high cholesterol.

Dr. Rezkalla and Dr. Kloner also cited findings from other studies that have identified marijuana use as a possible cause of cardiovascular problems. They believe that marijuana may increase clotting in the blood and that heavy, extended use of marijuana may impact the vessels that carry blood to the heart and brain. Even after clearance of a major blockage, these vessels may remain impeded because of damage caused by marijuana use.

Other case studies have suggested a connection between marijuana and other medical events, such as seeking care for increased angina, ischemic ulcers and blood flow blockage, often referred to as “mini-strokes.” These case studies documented cardiovascular problems among patients who were young and had no previous history of cardiovascular symptoms.

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