Monday, March 3, 2008

Smoking Marijuana May Increase Risk of Dying After a Heart Attack

A recent study shows that smoking marijuana after a heart attack may cause death. The study was spawned after it was found that oral doses of marijuana stopped atherosclerosis in mice. The goal was to see what effect marijuana has on people with existing heart disease and what, if any cardiovascular risks it poses. The results showed that you are three times more likely to die from the effects of marijuana post heart attack.

Lead investigator Dr Kenneth Mukamal (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA), points out that "for all the thousands and thousands of studies we've done on people who have had heart attacks, virtually nobody asks them about their marijuana use. Every single study asks people if they smoke, if they drink alcohol, but we never ask about marijuana."

The study group was small, and Dr. Mukamal suggests that more studies are needed to precisely identify the cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use. Past studies have shown the possibility of adverse effects in older adults and those with coronary artery disease. Marijuana increases heart rate and exposes the body to increased levels of carbon monoxide, both of which are undesirable under any circumstances, let alone in the presence of heart disease.

The study, though not definitive, provides hints that perhaps drinking a glass of red wine might be more beneficial for stress relief following a heart attack - but please get your doctor’s permission first.

This study was published in the March 2008 issue of the American Heart Journal. ◦