How Can Marijuana Use Lead To Heart Disease?
The use of cannabis (marijuana, hashish and hashish oil) is linked to a range of potential health problems, including diagnosable abuse and/or addiction and increased odds of experiencing some of the psychosis-related symptoms associated with schizophrenia and certain other severe mental illnesses.
In a study published in April 2014 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a team of French researchers investigated another possible consequence of cannabis use: dysfunction in the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) system. These researchers concluded that young adult cannabis users, in particular, put themselves at increased risk for potentially life-threatening cardiovascular problems.
Marijuana Use Stats
Cannabis use (particularly, marijuana use) is a relatively common form of recreational substance intake among U.S. adults and teenagers, according to figures compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In 2012 (the last year with fully available statistics), almost 19 million Americans over the age of 11 used marijuana in a given month; this number is the equivalent of more than 7 percent of the teen and adult population.
The highest rates of intake for marijuana and all other illegal or misused substances occur in teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 34. Within this fairly broad age range, peak rates of use occur among individuals in their late teens or early 20s. Intake rates are lowest among very young adolescents and adults age 60 or older. Throughout the U.S., only alcohol and nicotine outrank marijuana as popular substances of abuse.
Cardiovascular Risks Associated With Marijuana Use
One of the most serious cardiovascular problems is acute coronary syndrome, a term that doctors use collectively to describe any condition that produces a rapid decrease in blood supplied to the tissues that make up the heart muscle. Well-known conditions that meet this definition include heart attack (loss of blood flow and tissue death in specific areas of the heart) and cardiac arrest (stoppage of all heart function). Acute coronary syndrome also includes a form of unpredictable chest pain called unstable angina.
In the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from four French institutions used information from an ongoing project called the French Addictovigilance Network to assess the cardiovascular risks faced by people who use marijuana or other forms of cannabis.
In France, this network acts as a national reporting system for all people seriously impacted by any type of substance abuse or substance addiction. The researchers looked at data gathered from 2006 to 2010. All told, 1,979 reports of serious cannabis-related harm were registered with the Addictovigilance Network during this timeframe.
The researchers found that cardiovascular problems accounted for just 1.8 percent of all cannabis-related harm. However, they also found that many of the reported cardiovascular problems were severe or potentially lethal in nature. For example, over half of the affected individuals suffered from acute coronary syndrome.
Other reported problems included complications related to the function of blood vessels located in the upper or lower limbs, as well as complications related to the function of blood vessels inside the brain. Altogether, fully 25.6 percent of the cannabis users impacted by serious cardiovascular issues died as a result of their condition.
Does Marijuana’s Negative Cardiovascular Effects Have A Greater Impact In Men?
The authors of the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that the vast majority (85.7 percent) of the cannabis users affected by serious cardiovascular problems were male. On average, affected individuals of both genders were just over the age of 34. The study’s authors specifically note that young adults who use cannabis may have increased risks for potentially fatal cardiovascular issues.
In line with this conclusion, they call for wide distribution of information regarding the link between cannabis use and serious heart- and blood vessel-related harm. In addition, they call upon doctors to consider cannabis intake as a possible source or contributing factor for any cardiovascular problems found in young adult patients.
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