A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that young and middle-aged adults who use marijuana may have an increased risk for heart-related complications. The study reported that 2 percent of health complications stemming from marijuana use were linked to cardiovascular health, and a quarter of these complications led to premature death.
What the Research Says
The authors in the study confirmed that the dangers of cannabis should be not be minimized. Health practitioners and users are likely to talk about the dangers of drugs like cocaine and heroin, but they downplay the negative health consequences to using marijuana. The findings in the study show that marijuana may cause serious complications, especially in regards to cardiovascular health, which should not be ignored.
Data for the study was collected from the French Addictovigilance Network between 2006 and 2010. Researchers in France identified that 35 of the 2,000 marijuana users had medical conditions that were related to the heart or arteries in the brain or limbs. The majority of these people were male and in their mid-thirties.
More specifically, the study found that 22 of the 35 people had heart problems, and 20 had suffered a heart attack. Ten people had diseases that affected the arteries in their limbs, while three suffered artery issues in the brain. Nine out of the 35 people died from cardiovascular complications.
Even though the research only identified 35 people with known issues, researchers are confident that these numbers are on the low end. Many incidents go unreported, and it can be hard to know which drug is linked to health problems since marijuana users are more likely to abuse other drugs and alcohol.
Will the Legalization of Marijuana Lead to Better Health Tracking?
It was once believed that marijuana was a relatively safe drug. But now, there are more cases of cardiovascular difficulties that are linked to the drug, and it’s highlighting the potential dangers of cannabis. Regardless of whether marijuana is legalized or not, the bottom line is that users need to know if there are risks. Cannabis does increase the heart rate, creating more demand for oxygen by the heart.
As more states legalize the drug for both recreational and medicinal use, experts are asking for more detailed ways to track health complications from cannabis. If marijuana use can increase the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular complications, users need to know. Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that marijuana is a safe drug with no complications, aside from mild throat irritation. Individuals with preexisting heart conditions, or those who are at risk for heart disease, should be especially careful.
Even Casual Marijuana Use Has Its Consequences
After reading this information, one may be quick to assume that it’s only heavy cannabis users who need to worry about their health. But, people should not assume so quickly. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that even casual marijuana use alters neural pathways in the brain.
Researchers analyzed 20 pot users, ages 18-25. Users smoked cannabis about four times a week, and their brain scans were compared to 20 non-smoking young adults. Participants were matched based on age, gender and other traits. The results showed that there were significant differences in the brain areas associated with emotion, motivation and reward processing. Cannabis users had higher densities in these areas, as well as differences in shape.
The study is one of the first of its kind, so it’s too early to put anything in stone. What researchers want to educate people on is the fact that using marijuana even once or twice a week may be enough to cause changes in the brain. This means that using the drug can cause problems at work, at school or in relationships. These changes take place before a dependency starts, too.
For some people, marijuana is a therapeutic tool. But, it’s important that users don’t automatically assume the same for themselves. Like any type of drug, the effects are different for everyone. Some people may suffer negative side effects from marijuana, others won’t. Some users will develop a dependency, others will remain casual. And, some people will eventually go on to abuse other drugs and alcohol.
What the current research tells us, even in its earliest stages, is that marijuana is not safe for everyone, and it should be regarded as a drug with possible health complications.