Marijuana use linked to heart problems
April 23rd, 2014
06:21 PM ET

Marijuana use linked to heart problems

Young people who use marijuana may be at risk for heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems, a new study suggests.

Researchers reviewed records from the French Addictovigilance Network, a national system of centers in France that gather information about drug abuse and dependence. From 2006 to 2010, they found 35 reports of patients who had experienced cardiovascular complications following cannabis use. The  study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

About 85% of the patients were men and their average age was 34. In nine cases the patient died.

While the study doesn't identify a particular level of risk of marijuana use, it does call for more research on the subject, and warns doctors that there seems to be at least some danger.

"Currently people think (cannabis is) harmless," says lead study author Emilie Jouanjus, at the Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier. "What I think is very important from my work is that we see cannabis use may lead to very serious complications on the cardiovascular system."

Jouanjus was surprised to find all but one of the patients with cardiovascular problems were under the age of 50. She believes this study shows only the tip of the iceberg, as people usually under-report their cannabis use.

"This study shows a some preliminary evidence of cardiovascular harm from marijuana but isn't conclusive,” Dr. Allen Taylor, chief of cardiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine, told CNN in an e-mail. “The study's limitations are important in that we can't know how high the risk is, just that there is a signal of risk between marijuana smoking and heart troubles.”

Taylor says it’s a shame that more isn't known about the potential harms of cannabis.

"It seems that public perception is ahead of the science," he says. "We should remain open to the scientific facts as they evolve."

Only 20% of patients in the study had a known history of heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. The other patients may have had unknown cardiovascular risk factors or a history that was not documented in the medical file.

“I'm not saying that any user of cannabis would suffer from any of these complications," Jouanjus says. But "we do not have enough information to say that cannabis use is safe."

Dr. Shereif Rezkalla. who wrote an editorial accompanying the study in JAHA, said doctors should be required to ask about marijuana use when they see a cardiac patient.

“The perception that marijuana is safe is deep-seated in the public and even amongst some health professionals,” says Rezkalla, a cardiologist at Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Taylor cautions that while this study doesn’t provide a final answer on the link between cannabis and serious heart problems, “it at least gives one pause to suggest to patients it may not be a heart-healthy habit."

Previous research has suggested marijuana use may double the risk of stroke in young adults.

soundoff (872 Responses)
  1. Kuron

    It might be indirectly responsible... it gives you the munchies which makes you want to eat a lot of unhealthy things like Cheetos, sweets, pizza, etc.

    May 23, 2014 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. caliboss

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy....#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed

    "any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
    Deaths by Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


    May 23, 2014 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mary Jane

    CNN published this article, why? it's so laughable, it debunks itself. CNN is clearly on the side of legalization.

    May 23, 2014 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. galo soberon

    oral weed is better than smoked weed. Both vias help the health of many sick people.

    January 1, 2015 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Robyn

    Yeah, eating fast food on a regular basis leads to heart problems, but there's a McDonalds on every corner. Priorities in this country are ridiculous.

    July 22, 2015 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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