Weed Might Put You at Greater Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke, Says Study

According to CBS News , there’s new research on the horizon that suggests marijuana use might not be as safe as originally thought—the data suggests that smoking pot may put people at a higher risk for stroke and heart disease, adding to a number of conflicting studies about the safety of getting high.

Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist from Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center, got a team together to analyze 20 million hospital records from people ages 18 to 55 who had been discharged from US hospitals in 2009 and 2010. The team looked at the number of people in those records who had admitted to smoking weed—only about 1.5 percent—and found that marijuana use was responsible for a 26 percent higher risk of stroke, and 10 percent higher risk of heart failure, compared to patients who did not smoke weed.

Although the study didn’t allow the researchers to actually talk to the participants to find out how much they were smoking each day, or if they were smoking or eating edibles, Kalla still believes the findings indicate a general link between heart problems and marijuana use.

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients, so that leads us to believe that there is something else going on besides just obesity or diet-related cardiovascular side effects,” Kalla said in a press release . “More research will be needed to understand the pathophysiology behind this effect.”

This is just the most recent in a number of studies that have found harmful effects of marijuana use, including diminished bone density , vision problems , psychosis , and paranoia . Earlier this year, a review of 10,000 studies about the medical effects of marijuana published by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that pot can affect memory, mental health, and respiratory functions, but won’t cause cancer.

However, that same study found that cannabis also has tremendous health benefits, including use for chronic pain. Other studies show that the green stuff can improve cognitive functions , treat cervical cancer , help PTSD patients , and block the onset of Alzheimer’s disease . Even former surgeon general Vivek Murthy has touted weed’s potential medical benefits .

With medical or recreational marijuana use legal in more than half of the states in the country, doctors and the general public are going to be paying more attention to these studies to weigh the drug’s benefits. The bottom line seems to be that without more inquiry, we can’t be quite sure of the real risk marijuana can pose.

“Like all other drugs, whether they’re prescribed or not prescribed, we want to know the effects and side effects of this drug,” Kalla said. “It’s important for physicians to know these effects so we can better educate patients, such as those who are inquiring about the safety of cannabis or even asking for a prescription for cannabis.”

Kalla and her team plan to publish their findings at the annual American College of Cardiology meeting on March 18.

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