It is safe to say that the dangers of cannabis have long been exaggerated by moral crusaders and the war team. But a new study shows that under proper circumstances, the pot can indeed cause serious health problems. According to the new document, a 70-year-old Canadian man with a pre-existing cardiovascular disease suffered a heart attack shortly after healing with THC.
The study was published this month in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. He describes a 70-year-old man with coronary artery disease, a condition where plaque build-up in the arteries narrows the flow of blood to the heart. At that time, the man was relatively stable for two years, and he took medications to manage his condition.
Within 30 minutes of consuming marijuana, which he hoped would help him fall asleep, the man began to sweat, to become white as a ghost, and to suffer a crushed chest pain. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a heart attack. But while he heals successfully, he does not escape unscathed – his heart function worsens afterwards, as well as his ability to exercise and perform daily activities.
"Marijuana can be a useful tool for many patients, especially to relieve pain and nausea. At the same time, like all other medicines, it also has side effects and risks, "said author Alexandra Saunders, a cardiologist and principal resident of the inner medicine at Dalhousie University in New Brunswick.
According to his doctors, the man's heartbeat was something like a perfect storm.
On the one hand, while in his youth he has been dealing with a saucepan, the lollipop is the first cannabis product he has taken for a long time. This is important because many products now contain much more THC (the main ingredient responsible for psychoactive drugs) than decades ago. The inexperience of the man with the delayed effects of eating it makes him eat almost the whole thing, giving him a much higher dose of THC than people usually accept. And this higher dose, combined with a lack of tolerance, has led to suffering from terrible hallucinations that make it incredibly worrying. Then anxiety also sent his unconscious cardiovascular system overdrive, possibly causing a heart attack.
In addition to its anxiety effects, cannabis directly affects the cardiovascular system, including faster heart immersion for several hours. But the relationship between cannabis use and the risk of heart problems is rarely studied without clear conclusions. Two years ago, however, doctors published a controversial study of an 11-month-old boy who had died of heart disease after ingestion of cannabis. The case was highlighted as probably the first fatal overdose of cannabis ever documented. But doctors soon clarified their findings by saying that they only found a connection that is worth exploring more and not conclusively proven that the pot can kill (indirectly, yet the growing popularity of the drug probably resulted in little but real increase of fatal road accidents.).
This is roughly the same as the researchers behind this latest study.
"The result of this case is important with the new legalization of marijuana – I hope that the use of marijuana is no longer criminalized, more research will be done on cardiovascular side effects," they write.
As the United States slowly moves to statewide cannabis legalization, Canada fully legalizes cannabis for recreational use last year.[Canadian Journal of Cardiology via Elsevier]