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Does marijuana use increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?
More and more countries allow cannabis for medicinal purposes, and in some countries recreational use is legal. This has led to a significant increase in consumption worldwide in recent years. American researchers have now discovered that there is a possible link between marijuana use and an increased risk of heart disease.
More than two million patients in the United States suffer from heart disease while consuming cannabis. Since marijuana has long been considered an illegal drug, the effects on heart health have so far been scarcely investigated. According to a recent study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, recent observations suggest an alarming relationship between marijuana and an increased risk of heart disease.
Unknown consequences on heart health
Even though marijuana is becoming increasingly legal for medical and recreational use, the cardiovascular effects of marijuana have not been well understood so far. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital report that more than two million cardiac patients in the United States have used or are currently consuming marijuana. According to observational studies, cannabis use is associated with a number of cardiovascular risks, including increased risks of stroke, arrhythmia and heart failure.
More cannabis users in the United States than cigarette smokers
"We are experiencing an epidemiological change," reports cardiologist Muthiah Vaduganathan from the study team. On the one hand, more and more people stop smoking or reduce their tobacco use. On the other hand, increasing marijuana use is observed. "For the first time, cannabis users in the United States exceed the number of cigarette smokers," emphasizes the cardiologist.
"That opened our eyes"
"We must now focus our attention and public health resources on understanding the safety profile of consumption," said Vaduganathan. According to the researchers, doctors should check with people with heart diseases in particular whether they are consuming cannabis, since marijuana is also suspected of triggering interactions with heart medication.
Cannabis interacts with certain medications
Another study from 2019, published in the "Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology", shows that there are interactions between cannabis products and conventional drugs. The researchers concluded that cannabis should not be consumed with medications that are linked to the enzymes CYP2C19, CYP2C9, and CYP1A2.
For example, CYP2C19 is a component of some antidepressants, neuroleptics, sedatives and proton pump inhibitors. The enzyme CYP2C9 plays an important role in the breakdown of various medications such as the blood thinner S-warfarin, anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, sulfonylureas, phenytoin, tolbutamide, losartan, terbinafine and tamoxifen. The enzyme CYP1A2 is involved in the metabolism of many common active ingredients, including fluoroquinolones, methylxanthines and some neuroleptics and antidepressants.
"Marijuana use is increasing, both in leisure time and in medicine, but many of its cardiovascular effects are still poorly understood," said cardiologist Ersilia M. DeFilippis. In her research, she found that many cardiology patients take medication that can interact with marijuana in an unpredictable manner. This underlines that more data is needed so that both providers and those affected can receive better advice.
Connection between cannabis and heart disease
DeFilippis and Vaduganathan reviewed the way in which components and compounds in marijuana can affect the heart and other tissues at the molecular level, and the interactions that marijuana can have with medications that are commonly administered to cardiology patients. The researchers identified the following points:
- Many of the cardiotoxic chemicals found in cigarettes are also found in marijuana smoke.
- Inhaling cannabis can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can trigger a heart attack.
- Marijuana use is associated with abnormal heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation.
- Cerebrovascular events such as stroke are three times more common among marijuana users than among non-smokers.
- Of the 334 patients examined who had a stroke before the age of 45, 17 percent were cannabis users.
Causes currently unknown
The exact subtle backgrounds and causes for these relationships are currently unknown. The authors are pushing for better information. They advise that medical staff should make cannabis users aware of these relationships. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: More Than 2 Million Patients with Heart Disease Report Use of Marijuana (Posted: Jan 20, 2020), brighamandwomens.org
- Yuli Qian, Bill Gurley, John Markowitz: The Potential for Pharmacokinetic Interactions Between Cannabis Products and Conventional Medications, Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2019, insights.ovid.com
- Ersilia M. DeFilippis, Muthiah Vaduganathan, et al .: Marijuana Use in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease; in: The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2020, sciencedirect.com