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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Marijuana Use Linked to Heart Failure

As California works out what recreational marijuana use will look like throughout the state, researchers continue to probe the drug and its effects on the human body. The law which Californians voted on, Proposition 64, allows adults over the age of 21 to buy and consume marijuana products. While legalization is generally considered to be a good a thing when compared to the damage caused by prohibition, there is significant evidence that suggests that the drug is not without side-effects. Some of which, could be long term.

Most of the research available that is utilized by legalization opponents, is often linked to adolescent use of the substance. Studies have found convincing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents can lead to cognitive issues, particularly regarding memory. Developing brains are particularly susceptible to the drug's effects. What’s more, young people who use cannabis may be at a greater risk of developing a problem with not only “weed,” but other mind altering substances. Great pains should be taken by both parents and educators to deter teenage use of the drug.

When it comes to adult use, most Americans would probably agree that the substance is relatively harmless. It is a perception that likely arises from comparisons between “pot” and other drugs, e.g. cocaine and opioids. What Americans deduce from such comparisons are not so much as wrong, as they are a precarious line of thinking. And just because a substance is legal does not mean that is inherently safe. Alcohol is legal for people 21+ to imbibe, but more people die from alcohol-related health complications every year, than from any other addictive substance.

So, as California gears up to begin selling marijuana for recreational use in 2018, it is important that citizens of the state are apprised of possible health concerns that could arise from cannabis use. Research has shown that, after accounting for a number of factors, marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart failure, according to a press release from the American College of Cardiology. The link between the drug and heart problems came from an analysis of more than 20 million health records from young and middle-aged patients across the country. The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology's 66th Annual Scientific Session.

Researchers involved in the study had to take into account various considerations before reaching their conclusion. Factors included both demographics and lifestyle choices such as whether a patient drank alcohol or smoked cigarettes, or not. Compared to those patients who didn’t use marijuana, those who engage in use were found to be at a much greater risk of:
  • Heart Failure
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Stroke
  • Sudden Cardiac Death
"Like all other drugs, whether they're prescribed or not prescribed, we want to know the effects and side effects of this drug," said study lead author, Aditi Kalla, MD, Cardiology Fellow at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. "It's important for physicians to know these effects so we can better educate patients, such as those who are inquiring about the safety of cannabis or even asking for a prescription for cannabis."

As always, more research is required. The study did not have access to vital information which could further point out who is at the greatest risk. For instance, quantity and regularity of use or how the drug is consumed. Did a patient smoke cannabis or did they ingest it? Even without that information, the current findings are of the utmost importance moving forward.

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