You can use marijuana legally in several states in the United States. The cannabis sativa plant, used to make marijuana, has the fastest-acting effects when smoked. However, marijuana smoke is said to contain many of the same toxins, allergens, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Since cigarette smoke is known to increase the risk of cancer and heart disease, many people question whether the same is true for marijuana.
Marijuana has been cultivated and used for 6,000 years. Unfortunately, though, its effects on the heart and other systems of the body haven’t been well investigated. This is partly because cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law. This means it currently has no accepted medicinal use, in addition to a significant potential for misuse. Scientists have argued that it is challenging to conduct rigorous research on marijuana due to the many constraints that come with that status.
For this reason, the claims you hear about what marijuana may or may affect will need to be taken with a certain level of caution until more research is completed.
Cardiovascular Health and Marijuana
One of the few things about marijuana and cardiovascular health that scientists seem to be certain of is that persons with established heart disease who are under stress may experience chest pain more quickly if they have recently smoked marijuana than they otherwise would. This is due to the complicated interactions that cannabinoids have with the cardiovascular system, which include boosting the resting heart rate, widening blood vessels, and intensifying the heart’s contractions. According to research, the chance of having a heart attack increases significantly in the hour following marijuana use compared to when it doesn’t.
While those with low cardiovascular risk are not significantly at risk from this, anyone with a history of heart disease should be concerned. There are correlations to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation or ischemic stroke right after marijuana use, while the evidence for these associations is less strong. Studies also indicate that marijuana use may raise the long-term death rate among heart attack survivors, which is consistent with these connections.
Research states that marijuana may also:
- Narrow arteries
- Lower pumping ability
- Make an uneven heartbeat worse
- Raise blood pressure
While the experts agree that much more research is needed to completely understand the risks of marijuana on your heart, it’s still good to know what research has shown thus far. The more scientists are able to expand upon their research, the more information we will know.