Over a five-year period, physicians in France treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.
In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.
Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association warn that clinical evidence suggests the potential for "serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use."
In an editorial, Drs. Sherief Rezkalla and Robert Kloner asked, "Do we really know enough about the cardiovascular effects of marijuana to feel comfortable about its use in patients with known cardiovascular disease or patients with cardiovascular risk factors," including obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol issues.
"We think the time has come to stop and think about what is the best way to protect our communities from the potential danger of widespread marijuana use in the absence of safety studies," added Rezkalla, a cardiologist at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Kloner, a cardiologist at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. "It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use."