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Marijuana Use Linked to Heart Problems

Update Date: Apr 23, 2014 04:18 PM EDT
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With medicinal marijuana becoming legalized in several states, more studies have been conducted to examine the safety of this drug. According to new research, marijuana use in young and middle-aged adults could be detrimental to heart health.

For this study, the French research team reviewed serious cases of health complications that occurred after marijuana use. The cases were reported to the French Addictovigilance Network from 2006 to 2010. Out of the 1,979 cases, 35 of them were marijuana-related cardiovascular and vascular problems. 22 of them were tied to heart problems, with 20 of them being heart attacks. 10 of the cases were tied to the arteries in the limbs and the remaining three were linked to arteries in the brain. Nine of the cases, or 25.6 percent, ended up in deaths. The majority of the patients were men with an average age of 34.3.

"In prior research, we identified several remarkable cases of cardiovascular complications as the reasons for hospital admission of young marijuana users," said émilie Jouanjus, Pharm.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and a medical faculty member at the Center Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in Toulouse, France. "This unexpected finding deserved to be further analyzed, especially given that the medicinal use of marijuana has become more prevalent and some governments are legalizing its use."

The researchers also found that from 2006 to 2010, the incidence rate of reported cardiovascular complications increased by more than three times. They added that complications arising from marijuana use are also most likely underreported. Doctors and patients need to be more aware of the potential consequences of using marijuana. People with pre-existing heart problems, a family history of heart problems or have a high risk of heart complications should be careful with their marijuana use.

"The general public thinks marijuana is harmless, but information revealing the potential health dangers of marijuana use needs to be disseminated to the public, policymakers and healthcare providers," Jouanjus said. "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 study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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