Mixed Messages About Cannabis and Heart Disease

Update: The latest salvo in the medical industry's war on marijuana, especailly the smokeable form, appears in the Journal of the American Heart Association in a report titled, "Association of Cannabis Use with Cardiovascular Outcomes Among U.S. Adults." It concludes:

"Cannabis has strong, statistically significant associations with adverse cardiovascular outcomes independent of tobacco use and controlling for a range of demographic factors and outcomes. It remains positively associated with cardiovascular disease among the general population, and men 55 years old and women 65 years old, those who have never use tobacco cigarettes, and those who have never used tobacco cigarettes or e‐cigarettes. These data suggest that cannabis use may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and may be a risk factor for premature cardiovascular disease. Patients and policymakers need to be informed of these potential risks, especially given the declining perception of risk associated with cannabis use."

The outcomes referred to are heart attacks and strokes. The timing of this negative report would appear to correspond with the Health and Human Services' recommended federal redescheduling of marijuana, which the DEA is currently considering.

Previously, the American Heart Association took a stance against smoking and vaping marijuana, which a representative says can cause "potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels." On the other hand, "Oral and topical forms, for which doses can be measured, may reduce some of the potential harms."

So tinctures, edibles and lotions good; joints, bongs and dabs bad, according to the AHA. They added that CBD does not "appear to cause harm to the heart."

According to New York Times "personal health" columnist Jane Brody, "A growing body of medical reports" suggest marijuana can be harmful to heart function. Quoting various studies, she concludes, "These various findings suggest that a person need not have underlying coronary artery disease to experience cardiovascular dysfunction resulting from the use of marijuana."

This follows a review of papers and studies in January published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluding that marijuana use can lead to heart attacks.

"Observational data suggest associations between marijuana and a broad range of adverse cardiovascular risks," stated Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan, the lead author of "Marijuana Use in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease," who works as a cardiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where his review took place.

Dr. Mary Clifton: "Cannabis is safe and protective against heart attacks and other forms of heart disease."

He determined cannabis, cocaine and a large meal (seperately) can trigger a heart attack, and that heart rate and blood pressure rise when you smoke pot. 

"National survey data estimate that two million Americans with established cardiovascular diseases currently use or have used marijuana in its variety of forms, including inhalation and vaping." the review noted. "Marijuana is becoming increasingly potent, and smoking marijuana carries many of the same cardiovascular health hazards as smoking tobacco."

New York-baseed cannabis and CBD expert Dr. Mary Clifton thinks otherwise. "Cannabis is safe and protective against heart attacks and other forms of heart disease," she tells CelebStoner. "People who regularly use cannabis have healthier metabolisms than people who don't. If you're looking to improve your waistline, control your cholesterol and reduce your insulin resistance or markers of inflammation, you've found what you're looking for."

However, Clifton says recent heart attack victims should refrain from lighting up. "It seems reasonable to exercise caution here." she says. "Transient elevations in heart rate and blood pressure modifications could put an at-risk person at higher-acute risk after canabis ingestion."

About the Times article, she commented:

"Unfortunately, this article is still based on biased propaganda and poorly conducted research, including primaily case studies. Good research shows that people who have previously used cannabis had lower rates of dysrythmias after heart attacks or strokes. People with heart attacks who had previously used cannabis were less likely to die from heart attacks. This is likely becasue of  the proven reduction in diabetes, obesity and elevated chloresterol and blood pressure in people who use cannabis products regularly. The metabolic and cardioprotective benefits of cannabis are misrepresented and understated."

The study Clifton referred to states that people who use cannabis and suffer heart attacks are more likely to survive an attack than those who don't. "I was very surprised that it was actually a reduced association I found," said the study's lead author Dr. Oluwole Adegbala, a medical resident at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey.

So, then, it appears the jury is still out on cannabis and cardiovascular disease.

This article was posted on January 22 and has been updated several times.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.