People who smoke weed are more than three times more likely to die from high blood pressure than non-users, according to new research.
A study has shown that the risk of death from hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is higher for cannabis users than for non-users – and is even higher than for those who smoke cigarettes.
Study lead author Barbara Yankey, a PhD student in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, said: ‘Steps are being taken towards legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana in the United States, and rates of recreational marijuana may increase substantially as a result.
‘However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality.’
Researchers studied cannabis users between 2005 and 2011, looking at how long they had used the drug for and their general health.
‘Our results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from marijuana use,’ Yankey said. ‘This is not surprising since marijuana is known to have a number of effects on the cardiovascular system.
‘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 heart attacks after marijuana use.’
She added that ‘the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking’, and that if people are to make informed decisions about smoking weed, they need to be in possession of the full facts.
‘Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health,’ Yankey continued.
‘With the impending increase in recreational marijuana use, it is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks.
‘If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public.’
The findings have been published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.