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Cannabis Could be Blamed for Two People’s Deaths, Study Claims

Update Date: Feb 27, 2014 10:31 AM EST

According to a new study conducted by German researchers, cannabis was responsible for killing two adults. The researchers reported that the two adults appeared to be outwardly healthy and had not taken any other kind of substances at the time that could have factored into their deaths. This finding, even though the study was small, could raise concerns over the use of marijuana medicinally and recreationally for certain individuals.

"To our knowledge, these are the first cases of suspected fatal cannabis intoxications where full post-mortem investigations... were carried out," the researchers wrote according to TIME. "After exclusion of other causes of death we assume that the young men experienced fatal cardiovascular complications evoked by smoking cannabis."

For this study, the researchers examined 15 deaths that were tied to marijuana use. They discovered that 13 of the deaths were caused by other factors. The other two deaths, however, appeared to be caused by cannabis use. The two cases were a 23-year-old and a 28-year-old who appeared to be healthy. However, after performing autopsies, the researchers discovered underlying health problems. The younger of the two patients had a serious heart problem that was never detected. The other patient had a history of drug and alcohol use.

"We assume that these are very rare, isolated cases," one of the study's author, Dr. Benno Hartung, explained according to HuffPost.

The researchers concluded that even though cannabis might not cause deaths on its own, people with cardiovascular problems who choose to smoke marijuana should be aware of the potential health risks involved. The researchers reported that their study's findings are important because cannabis is rarely associated with triggering physical problems and death. However, critics of the study stated that the findings greatly exaggerated the dangers of using cannabis.

"Cannabis does not paralyze the breathing or the heart," said Jost Leune, who is the head of the German Association for Drugs and Addiction. "Deaths due to cannabis use are usually accidents that are not caused by the substance, but to the circumstances of use."

The study, "Sudden unexpected death under acute influence of cannabis," was published in Forensic Science International.  

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