Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
Medical | By Rita Mcdonald

Study Links Marijuana Use to Hypertension-Related Death

Study Links Marijuana Use to Hypertension-Related Death

A just-released study found that people who smoke pot have a three times greater risk of dying from hypertension or high blood pressure.

Describing the study, lead author Barbara Yankey said: 'Steps are being taken towards legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana in the USA, and rates of recreational marijuana use may increase substantially as a result.

The study followed 1,213 people who were at least 20 years old who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which asked them in 2005-2006 whether they had ever used marijuana.

Ike S. Okosun, PhD (Georgia State University), senior author on the paper, which was published online recently in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, told TCTMD that physicians need to take patients' marijuana use and other drug use just as seriously as they have "traditional smoking". That's compared to people who have never used marijuana.

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Combining the data on marijuana use with the National Centre for Health Statistics' mortality data in 2011, the effect of marijuana use and the duration of use on deaths due to hypertension (which included causes like hypertensive renal disease as well as primary hypertension), cerebrovascular disease and heart disease, controlling for the use of cigarette, was estimated. This risk increases by 1.04 times for every year of cannabis use.

The team of five scientists said that while studies relating to cigarette use to cardiovascular diseases are abundant, studies on marijuana use to cardiovascular are scarce.

"Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen demand", she said.

However, the researchers found no association between marijuana use and death from either heart disease or stroke.

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The active component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be behind some of the heart risks, the researchers say.

She noted that it was crucial to understand the effects of marijuana on health so that policy makers and individuals could make informed decisions. Marijuana "experts" not involved in the study said the results should be replicated in other studies.

Results suggest marijuana use is more risky for heart health than cigarettes, despite certain campaigners insisting cannabis is safer than tobacco.

Armentano also argued that this new study's results are also jeopardized because of the ambiguous definition of "marijuana user".

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