When researchers studied the records of 33,343 Americans hospitalized with cardiomyopathy between 2003 and 2011, they made a compelling discovery. Only 210 within the group were identified as marijuana users. But the study, presented at the 2016 Scientific Session of the American Heart Association, found that the risk of stress cardiomyopathy doubled among the young men who smoked marijuana.
Cardiomyopathy is a sudden and usually temporary weakening of the heart muscle that affects its ability to pump — causing pain and shortness of breath.
The study was done by St. Luke’s University Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and presented at the 2016 Scientific Session of the American Heart Association.
The group was more likely to be younger and male: the average age of marijuana users was 44, compared with 66 for other cardiomyopathy patients. And 36 percent of the marijuana users were male compared with just 8 percent of the others. The study also found that marijuana users were more likely to suffer cardiac arrest, and that marijuana use itself could be an independent predictor of heart problems among young men.
Researchers say the results should give states that are considering further legalization pause — but the link needs to be further investigated as the effects of marijuana on the cardiovascular system are not well-known.
“Today’s marijuana is a high-potency, genetically engineered, highly addictive … cash crop,” said one addiction specialist.
Marijuana is already the most commonly used illicit drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with 7,000 more new users reportedly joining the fold per day, more research is desperately needed in terms of the effects the drug has on the body and mind.
The marijuana today is exponentially more potent than it was in the past. Aside from the cardiac concerns, other known health conditions caused by frequent marijuana use include mental health problems, chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, increased risk for cancer, and suppression of the immune system. There is also the possible loss of IQ points when repeated use begins in adolescence, and babies born with problems with attention, memory, and problem solving (when used by the mother during pregnancy), according to the U.S. surgeon general.
“This is not your father’s or grandfather’s marijuana,” Timothy Huckaby, M.D., medical director of the Orlando Recovery Center, told LifeZette. “It is not the ‘harmless plant that nature created,’ which had at best a 3-percent THC content. Today’s marijuana is a high-potency, genetically engineered, highly addictive, and lucrative cash crop.”
The average THC content of modern marijuana, Huckaby said, is 15 to 25 percent, and with edibles and extract that content is perhaps 80 to 90 percent. He is seeing more and more admissions to his treatment center among those whose only drug addiction is marijuana.
“One by one, states are passing legislation, mostly because of the powerful cannabis legalization movement that has been well-funded, patient, and calculating in its every move to sway public opinion and gain support.”