In the absence of longitudinal data on marijuana use, the researchers designed a retrospective follow-up study of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) participants aged 20 years and above.
Ike S. Okosun, PhD (Georgia State University), senior author on the paper, which was published online recently in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, told TCTMD that physicians need to take patients' marijuana use and other drug use just as seriously as they have "traditional smoking".
Compared with subjects who had never used marijuana, the results revealed that marijuana users were 3.42 times more likely to die from high blood pressure.
Information on marijuana use was merged with mortality data in 2011 from the National Centre for Health Statistics.
Initially, Yankey and her colleagues found no difference in the unadjusted risk of hypertension-related death for either cigarette smokers or marijuana users. Researchers said we already knew THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can cause serious side effects like increased heart rate, but this is the first study that looked at the long-term effects.
'Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand. "Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and [MIs] after marijuana use". "However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on [CV] and cerebrovascular mortality".
"We found no association between cannabis and cardiovascular risks [e.g., high blood pressure, higher cholesterol], which may appear at odds with evidence that cannabis use increases risk for cardiovascular complications", the authors wrote. There was no association between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease. Eleven and a half years was the average duration of marijuana use.
"However, the number of smokers in our study was small and this needs to be examined in a larger study", she added.
There was no link between pot use and mortality risk from heart or cerebrovascular disease.
People are increasingly turning to marijuana for medicinal purposes, but recreational use may cause a real medical problem. "If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public".