“Observational data suggest associations between marijuana and a broad range of adverse cardiovascular risks”
U.S. cardiologists should advise patients of the risks of consuming cannabis, say the authors of a new review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“Observational data suggest associations between marijuana and a broad range of adverse cardiovascular risks,” reads the study.
The review’s authors cite a national survey that estimates more than 2 million patients affected by cardiovascular disease currently consume, or have a history of consuming, cannabis. This includes those who consume for both medical and recreational purposes.
“Some observational studies have suggested an association between marijuana and a range of cardiovascular risks,” lead author Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center in Boston, said in a press release.
“We also know that marijuana is becoming increasingly potent. Our review suggests that smoking marijuana carries many of the same cardiovascular health hazards as smoking tobacco. While the level of evidence is modest, there’s enough data for us to advise caution in using marijuana for our highest-risk patients, including those who present with a heart attack or new arrhythmia, or who have been hospitalized with heart failure.”
Consuming cannabis while taking certain common cardiovascular medications, such as anticoagulants or “blood thinners,” (like Warfarin) as well as statins, which lower cholesterol levels in the blood (like Pravachol), can be affected by cannabis consumption. Statins and similar prescription drugs can increase when consumed with cannabis due to both being metabolized by the same network of liver enzymes, known as the cytochrome P450 system.
“The review provides detailed tables of many drugs administered for various cardiovascular conditions, with the anticipated effects of marijuana on each one,” explained Dr. Vaduganathan. “These will be helpful to cardiologists and pharmacists reviewing patients’ medications and will help them collaboratively decide whether they need to adjust dosing if the patient continues to use marijuana.”
The authors recommend cardiologists screen patients for cannabis use — and note that it’s also important to ask about their methods of consumption. “Vaping marijuana increases the pharmacological effects of the drug,” Dr. Vaduganathan added.
The researchers recommend that cardiovascular patients who wish to continue to consume cannabis attempt to limit their consumption and avoid consumption via vaping and synthetic cannabinoids until more information is available.
But Dr. Vaduganathan noted that may take a while. Due to U.S. federal regulations that classify cannabis as a Schedule I substance, most researchers have a limited ability to study the drug in a meaningful way.
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Written by Emma Spears