Many people are asking if marijuana is safe for the heart after the American Heart Association (AHA) published a report hinting at a possible cardiovascular risk related to cannabis consumption.
We’ve analyzed the report and here’s our take on the matter.
It’s no secret that cannabis is loved and hated in equal measure. It’s no surprise that mainstream media paint cannabis in a negative light in view of AHA’s recent report. The therapeutic benefits of cannabis in different areas are not subject to question; but cardiovascular benefits or risks have not been well investigated so cannot be approved or disapproved. Cannabis derived compounds cannabidiol (CBD) has been approved by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of intractable childhood seizures.
Cannabis has also been linked to positive outcomes in the management of anxiety, inflammation, neuropathic pain, and mood disorders among others. The safety of cannabis especially when used for extended durations has been questioned. Some scientists have argued that the risks associated with cannabis use far outweigh any potential benefits. The effects of cannabis on intelligence have been raised as a concern, though there is a dearth of conclusive scientific evidence. Even with that, medicinal cannabis is currently legal in 34 states in the US. However it still remains prohibited under federal law.
With cannabis being illegal at a federal level. Research in this area has several setbacks. For starters, funding is difficult to access. Researchers may also lack adequate amounts of cannabis to use for research purposes. Getting study participants as well as data also proves difficult. All these factors contribute to a lack of sufficient data and evidence for the risk versus benefits of marijuana use and cardiovascular health.
Here is a synopsis of the statement that was released by the American Heart Association on Aug. 5, 2020. This statement was approved by the science advisory committee―it was harnessed from peer reviewed AHA- commissioned documents such as scientific statements, practice guidelines, and systematic reviews.
Statement from the American Heart Association
Last Wednesday, AHA published a report in is journal “Circulation.” This statement, for starters, calls for the federal government to reschedule cannabis to allow scientists to study its effects comprehensively.
The researchers did not overlook the medicinal benefits that have been associated with cannabis. They listed pain, cachexia, nausea and vomiting, and spasticity when the child is feeling unwell. However, the report emphasized the lack prospective studies to provide conclusive evidence on the cardiovascular benefits of cannabis.
In one study that was quoted by this report, cannabis users (aged between 18- 44) had an increased risk for developing cardiovascular conditions. This is as compared to their counterparts who do not use cannabis. A different study that was quoted in his report showed that cannabis has increases the likelihood of a stroke in hospitalized patients. However, the researchers concluded that all the studies mentioned showed a link but failed to prove cause and effect.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and inhibits the parasympathetic nervous system. This causes the following effects:
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Paranoia and psychosis
- Impaired motor coordination
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in cannabis and may be used to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. The report indicated that CBD reduces inflammation of vessels in the heart and consequently minimizes cardiovascular relief. Unfortunately, research in this area is still in its infancy.
Smoking cannabis, just like something anything else, creates its own safety challenges. Late last year, EVALI, which is a severe form of lung infection related to vaping cannabis, caused dozens of people to lose their lives. Upon further investigation it was discovered that vitamin A acetate that was added to the cartridges was responsible for the lung infections. . This too was a concern that was highlighted in the report.
The AHA gave a recommendation for people to avoid smoking or vaping cannabis which could cause potential damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. They also vouched for cannabis control to impose restrictions on the consumption of cannabis.
Cannabis Edibles and the Heart
The AHA report highlighted the fact that cannabis edibles may not be safe for the heart. This is because they have a greater “peak- effect” as compared to smoked cannabis.
In summary, the statement pushed for larger randomized clinical trials to show where the truth really lies. The evidence used in the above report due to the shortcomings of the studies that were reviewed.
Our take is that most of the studies cited above give inconclusive evidence. Therefore it is important for the government to grant full legalization as this will pave way for the truth about marijuana and cardiovascular health to be revealed.
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