NORML Responds to Alarmist Report on Marijuana and Heart Problems

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NORML Responds to Alarmist Report on Marijuana and Heart Problems
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 on May 2, 2014
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Of course, cannabis consumers for decades have been aware that the substance may temporarily elevate heart rate, particularly in more naïve users. That said, more regular pot smokers quickly develop tolerance to this physiological effect. More importantly, no sound scientific data indicates that this phenomenon poses a legitimate health threat to healthy individuals.

Today’s LA Times & SF Chronicle have an alarming report re marijuana and heart problems.
http://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/Marijuana-use-linked-to-heart-issues-study-finds-5440000.php

Dr. Mitch Earleywine has a response to this paper on the NORML blog.

http://blog.norml.org/2014/04/24/new-study-tells-nothing-about-marijuanas-role-in-heart-disease/

Paul Armentano adds:
Authors identified 35 cases of cardiovascular cannabis-related reports during this time period (five years). In 13 of these cases, cannabis was the only substance identified in the toxicology screen and/or the patient‚s medical file.

With an estimated 1.2 million regular French cannabis users (according to the study), it seems odd that researchers would raise an alarm over such an infinitesimally small number cannabis-related cases involving adverse outcomes.

Of course, cannabis consumers for decades have been aware that the substance may temporarily elevate heart rate, particularly in more naïve users. That said, more regular pot smokers quickly develop tolerance to this physiological effect. More importantly, no sound scientific data indicates that this phenomenon poses a legitimate health threat to healthy individuals. In fact, data published last year in the American Heart Journal reported that use of cannabis, even among patients with established coronary disease, is not associated with increased mortality risk. That study, conducted by investigators at Harvard Medical School, assessing the survival rates of 3,886 heart attack survivors over an 18-year period concluded, „There was no conclusive evidence of an association between smoking marijuana and mortality.‰

http://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/Marijuana-use-linked-to-heart-issues-study-finds-5440000.php

Marijuana use linked to heart issues, study finds
Los Angeles Times
April 29, 2014

Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.

Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But last week, cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association warned that “clinical evidence … suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use.”

And with a growing movement to decriminalize marijuana use, they called for data-collection efforts capable of detecting and measuring marijuana’s cardiovascular effect among American users of cannabis sativa. Voters in Washington and Colorado last year passed initiatives legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and pot advocates are proposing similar initiatives in other states.

“There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people,” said Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the French study, which was also published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. That evidence, Jouanjus added, should prompt cardiologists to consider marijuana use a potential cause of cardiovascular disease in patients they see.

In an editorial published Wednesday in the American Heart Association journal, Drs. Sherief Rezkalla and Robert A. Kloner asked, “Do we really know enough about the cardiovascular effects of marijuana to feel comfortable about its use in patients with known cardiovascular disease or patients with cardiovascular risk factors,” including obesity, sedentary behavior, high blood pressure and worrisome cholesterol numbers.

Rezkalla and Kloner combed the recent medical literature for animal experiments, observational studies and case reports linking marijuana use in close temporal proximity with cardiovascular events. They cited evidence that marijuana use probably increases clotting factors in the blood and that heavy marijuana use may lead to significant changes in the tiny vessels carrying blood to the heart and brain, such that even after clearance of a major blockage, blood flow remains impeded.

“We think the time has come to stop and think about what is the best way to protect our communities from the potential danger of widespread marijuana use in the absence of safety studies,” added Rezkalla, a cardiologist at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Kloner, a cardiologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use.”

Dale Gieringer
dale@canorml.org
California NORML
2261 Market St. #278A, San Francisco CA 94114 – www.canorml.org

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