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Marijuana use linked with risk of death from hypertension, study says

11 August 2017

People who smoke marijuana have a three times greater risk of dying from hypertension, or high blood pressure, than those who have never used the drug, scientists said on Wednesday.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, was a retrospective follow-up study of 1,213 people aged 20 or above who had been involved in a large and ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In 2005, participants were asked if they ever used marijuana, and if they had, how old they were when they started.

However, the study found no link between marijuana use and deaths from heart or cerebrovascular diseases such as strokes.

This data was cross referenced with mortality data from 2011 from the National Center for Health Statistics.

After adjustments, marijuana users had an increased risk for death from hypertension (HR = 3.42; 95% CI, 1.2-9.79) compared with nonusers. Additionally, the risk was shown to increase by four percent for every year of recreational marijuana usage. "This indicates that marijuana use may carry even heavier consequences on the cardiovascular system than that already established for cigarette smoking".

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"Steps are being taken toward legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in the United States, and rates of recreational marijuana use may increase substantially as a result", said Yankey. "Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and heart attacks after marijuana use", Yankey pointed out.

"We found higher estimated cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use than cigarette smoking", she said".

But the study is not without its limitations - as researchers were unable to determine if participants had used the drug continuously since first trying it. There was no association between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease. "Our results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from marijuana use".

But after adjustment for various comorbidities, alcohol use, demographic factors, and other potential confounders, the use of marijuana was linked to a higher risk of hypertension-related death.

Armentano acknowledged that cannabinoids (a class of chemicals found in marijuana, - the most well-known is THC, a psychoactive) do affect blood pressure - a subject that he has written about previously. "If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public".

Marijuana use linked with risk of death from hypertension, study says