The negative effects that marijuana can have on the brain have been widely reported. Now, new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that using the drug may also increase the risk of cardiovascular complications and even lead to death, particularly for young and middle-aged adults.
Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 52% of Americans aged 18-25 years use marijuana in their lifetime, while approximately 44% aged 26 years or older use the drug.
It is well known that the drug can cause brain impairments. Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that even casual use of marijuana can alter areas of the brain involved in emotion and motivation.
But the investigators of this most recent study, led by Émilie Jouanjus, PhD, of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France, say that in previous studies, the team found that many young marijuana users were hospitalized as a result of cardiovascular complications.
To investigate further, the team analyzed data from the French Addictovigilance Network between 2006 and 2010, which looked at complications reported following marijuana use.
From 1,979 marijuana-related complications reported, the team identified 35 cases linked to cardiovascular and vascular conditions. The majority of these cases were in males of an average age of 34.3 years.
The team says that 22 of the cases were heart related, of which 20 were heart attacks. Ten cases were peripheral with diseases related to arteries in the limbs, while three were related to arteries in the brain. Nine of the patients with these cardiovascular problems died.
The researchers say that marijuana appears to be more harmful to individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular vulnerabilities.
Commenting on the findings, Jouanjus says:
“There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people. It is therefore important that doctors, including cardiologists, be aware of this, and consider marijuana use as one of the potential causes in patients with cardiovascular disorders.”
The investigators say that it is likely marijuana use and any related health problems are underreported.
There are 1.2 million regular users of marijuana in France alone, meaning many health complications related to the drug may not be detected by the French Addictovigilance Network. This is a problem that could be applied globally.
Jouanjus therefore stresses that information revealing potential health dangers of marijuana – such as the data in this most recent study – needs to be presented to the public, policymakers and health care providers in order to abolish the general view that marijuana is harmless.
This is not the only study to link marijuana use to cardiovascular problems. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study revealing that marijuana use may double the risk of stroke among young adults.