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Health Care

Smoking Pot Could Cause a Heart Attack

A woman lights a joint at a pro-pot demonstration in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Dominick Reuter / Reuters)

The American Heart Association has warned marijuna smokers that they could be significantly endangering their health. From the Association’s statement:

Some studies have found that within an hour after cannabis  is smoked, THC may induce heart rhythm abnormalities, such as tachycardia, premature ventricular contractions, atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrythmias. Acutely, THC also appears to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, resulting in a higher heart rate, a greater demand for oxygen by the heart, higher blood pressure while laying down and dysfunction within the walls of the arteries…

Smoking and inhaling cannabis, regardless of THC content, has been associated with cardiomyopathy (heart muscle dysfunction), angina (chest pain), heart attacks, heart rhythm disturbances, sudden cardiac death and other serious cardiovascular conditions. In states where cannabis has been legalized, an increase in hospitalizations and emergency department visits for heart attacks has been observed.

I am not surprised. If smoking tobacco can cause heart issues, I have thought, why wouldn’t smoking a different plant do the same? Bingo:

Carbon monoxide intoxication from inhaled tobacco or cannabis has been associated with several heart problems, such as heart muscle disease, chest pain, heart attacks, heart rhythm disturbances and other serious conditions.

Taking pot by vaping is also dangerous.

In addition to the poisonous compounds in cannabis smoke, vaping cannabis may also result in serious health outcomes, especially when it is mixed with vitamin E acetate oils, which are linked to EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury), the potentially fatal illness that emerged among e-cigarette users last year.

The statement says that the same problems do not arise from taking CBD products, which is derived from industrial hemp and, of course, is not smoked. The warning also does not apply to pot that is ingested.

Marijuana clearly has medicinal benefits and should not be a Schedule 1 controlled substance — meaning highly addictive and no legitimate medical use — a designation that makes a liar of the law. But it is not benign. The question of its deleterious health impacts should be studied further and considered as the country debates whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and allow pot to become our version of Soma.


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