Potential Cardiac Issues of Marijuana Usage
As marijuana is becoming more widely accepted in society with many state legislatures legalizing the substance for recreational use, are we to assume that there are no cardiac ramifications that need to be considered?
Many medical experts feel that "moderate use" would not have any lasting effects that anyone need to be concerned about, but recent studies have determined specific pulmonary effects, specifically with THC (the chemical found within marijuana) which have shown definite lung injury when given in an e-cigarette or as a vaping product. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease conclude that even if the cardiovascular effects are not as strong as those induced on the pulmonary system, these marijuana products are unlikely to be fully safe overall.
In August, the American Heart Association published a statement that there is NO documented benefit of cannabis use for cardiac disease prevention or treatment. Moreover, the statement detailed evidence that suggests cannabis use may harm the heart and blood vessels. The scientific statement highlighted the importance of educating the medical community and public in general of potential risks of marijuana use.
Some research to date has associated marijuana use with increased risk for heart attacks in addition to cardiac arrhythmias and even strokes. There are reports that link cannabis use to episodes of atrial fibrillation which is usually seen in an older population group. THC can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system while inhibiting the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn can cause increased heart rate and BP which can exacerbate many existing cardiac problems.
There is a need for carefully designed short and long term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety. To date however, the overwhelming feeling in the cardiology community is that although marijuana use may temporarily elevate mood, which is always beneficial in treating any type of patient,
the potential to harm the cardiovascular system is irrefutable and needs to be carefully considered when passing even more legislation legalizing this drug.