Marijuana And Heart Disease: Marijuana use is common, and although once widely illegal, its use for medicinal purposes is growing and it’s recreational use decriminalized in some US states. This article is not designed to support any particular view on the drug, but simply to present evidence available in the medical literature regarding marijuana and heart disease. Although it’s neuropsychiatric complications are well documented, little is known about marijuana and heart disease. Due to its widespread use, its side effects are often trivialized, however there are a growing number of reports of concerning cardiovascular side effects. While its important to note that these side effects are uncommon, it’s important to be aware of potentially harmful effects. In this article we discuss some of the reported adverse effects of marijuana on the heart.
Marijuana, Heart Attacks And Heart Related Deaths
Multiple reports have described an association between marijuana and heart disease, specifically heart attacks, heart failure, and even sudden death. One of the weaknesses of these studies is that cigarette smokers or other drug users often use marijuana and and therefore its difficult to pin down what underlies the outcomes. However that doesn’t mean that the marijuana isn’t having a bad effect also.
In addition to causing heart attacks some studies have linked the use of marijuana to worse outcomes after heart attacks. In one study of almost 4000 patients, the risk of heart attack was around 5 times higher than average in the hour after use of the drug. This has been backed up by other reports. After a heart attack, marijuana smokers are more likely to die than non-users. One study demonstrated the risk was around 4 times higher in those using the drug at least once a week.
Several reports have reported an association between marijuana use and sudden death. The issues with this however is that case reports typically represent rare events, and in many of these reports other drugs were also abused. There are series however that link several sudden deaths to marijuana use where no other drugs were picked up on toxicology testing. A recent report from France demonstrated that although still relatively uncommon, the incidence of reported cardiovascular complications attributed to marijuana use is increasing. More concerning however, the death rate of patients with reported complications was 25%.
Marijuana And Heart Rhythm Problems
In one study a patient who passed out and developed a very dangerous heart rhythm after marijuana use was found to have a reduction in coronary artery blood flow. After the marijuana was stopped the coronary artery flow reverted to normal and the dangerous rhythm wouldn’t reappear even when special techniques were used to try and induce it.
More commonly reported is the association between marijuana smoking and the development of an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. In the majority of these reports atrial fibrillation occurred shortly after marijuana inhalation. There was usually no recurrence of atrial fibrillation after marijuana was stopped, with the rhythm only documented to recur in those who continued to smoke it. Interestingly, the true scale of the problem may be underreported given that atrial fibrillation may often occur silently.
Marijuana And Heart Disease – A Case Of Stopping The Heart
One study implicated cannabis in ‘cardiac asystole’ that basically means the heart stops beating. A patient was noted to have heart pauses of almost 6 seconds long on cardiac monitoring with the pauses related to periods of cannabis inhalation. Upon stopping use of cannabis, repeat monitoring showed that there were no further pauses. In this particular case, there is a clear association between the drug use and the development of a lethal cardiac rhythm.
Marijuana And Heart Disease – Possible Explanations
Scientific publications have recognized the potential side effects of marijuana for several decades and although there has been much speculation, there has been no clear explanation for these. There are some theories that may explain the association of marijuana and heart disease. A proposed reason for harmful effects is the slowing down of blood flow in the coronary arteries. In the study reported above, a patient who passed out and developed dangerous heart rhythms after marijuana use was found to have a reduction in coronary blood flow. After the marijuana was stopped the coronary flow reverted to normal and the dangerous rhythm disappeared. In a separate report, the phenomenon of slow coronary flow in association with marijuana use actually led to a major heart attack.
Although most associate marijuana with relaxing effects, within minutes of smoking it there is an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and thus increased heart workload. Those using marijuana are also proven to be more likely smoke, to use other illicit drugs, and also to have a poorer diet. All of course risk factors for heart disease.
Marijuana And Heart Disease – What To Make Of It
Marijuana smoking is relatively common and therefore the associated side effects are often trivialized. As seen above however, there are a growing number of studies and reports in the medical literature regarding the potentially harmful side effects of marijuana. On one hand, given the number of marijuana users and the relatively small numbers of patients affected, it can be argued that although these side effects have been documented they are still rare. On the other hand however, it could be that these side effects although occurring more commonly are simply not reported and so a lot more common than we think. This is backed up by the fact that the number of reports, particularly of marijuana use and cardiovascular disorders is growing significantly. Ultimately to definitively settle the issue, well-designed studies involving a large number of patients are required. Until that time however it would be wise to at least acknowledge a potentially harmful association.
Please note the sources for these claims and the ACTUAL studies you are referencing-I am attempting to put information together for patients using medical marijuana with heart conditions and I am beyond frustrated that ANYONE WITH AN MD would not site and source properly.
Dr. Mustafa Ahmed says
Dear genius, please note that the studies are completely referenced and linked to the original sources in pubmed, in fact to make it easy we had actually hyperlinked the relevant text. All you have to do is click on the text where the studies are referenced and it will take you there.
Denise A. Valenti says
Thank you for this summary. It is truly impressive.
john bocchetti says
I’m a 68 year old man who has been active hiking, track and field and cycling consistently throughout life. I also have been a light smoker of cannabis. Recently I had a arterial fibrillation serious enough to suffer a small stroke.
With all this hiking, over 1200 miles a year and adherence to a mediterranean diet and moderate red wine consumption, i come to think that the event was caused by regular daily use of small amounts of cannabis…
Frank Buckland says
I’m 72 Smoked a lot Grass in the 60ties. Then started back in the 90 ies, quit then started up again off & on. On several occasions at Dr visits, I was told I had a heart rhythm. I have occasionally sleep all night and wake up as tho I never slept at all. Went to a heart specialist who had me on cumiden but gave me no reason I was having these problems (spell check ) same as rat poison . Each time I stopped heavy drinking and also marijuana , the fibulations went away. Just to add, controlling the munchies is difficult since food taste so much better, creating bad eating habits. I am currently going back to the Dr’ because it feels like a nervous storm going on in my chest accompanied by dizziness. The only thing I can hope for is to die quick. I cut my coffee down to one cup. Two day’s clean and so far it is not better. I will take in all my med’s and see what he say’s.
Debra Grayson says
Frank, same here. What is happening? It’s been a year and 2 months since you posted this. Did you get answers?
Kevin Bond says
Are you feeling better? I’m a 20 year old who frequently smokes marijuana, and I have noticed that lately my heart (and other gastrointestinal organs) have been hurting/throbbing out of random
I recently had a similar incident! Would you be willing to converse privately?
Try getting past the first page of Google to put together info for your “patients.”
I would add also these negative incidents all had to do with the initial inhaling of low oxygen air and most likely, these guys held their breath. They most likely had significant prior medical issues.
The French did a four year study. In this study, there were only 35 know patients in the entire country in which pts who only used marijuana, tobacco, and or alcohol who complained of heart issues. Only 1 died and a couple had heart attacks. Seems like no connection to me.
Chris lott says
I’m 21i been smoking extremely heavily for.. Since I was like 13 and ibwas born with a heart disorder, I had to have surgery when I was 3months old, now Ive been having palpitations randomly every day and night, my heart rate falls below 30 while IMA sleep, and my cardiologist just said yo me I may have sleep apnea.. I also have like numbness in my hands and feet and face at times. But I workout constantly throughout the day and I work out like 5 times a week and eat pritty much what ever, but Im really active or athletic, I quit smoking g for 10 days, only experienced occasional palpitations while doing major exertions or drinking a beer after a boxing match gave me some weird effects, but I have been getting high as fuck the last three days and while stoned I’ll feelmy heart beat crazy hard out of nowhere. The Dr told me that my heart rate is alright to be so low cause of how much I train. And he cleared my heart as being healthy, but these heart palpitations, they don’t slowe down and shit, it just trips me out, but it definitely feels wild man..
I am not a doctor, but I am a mother of a boy your age. This is my advice, stop getting high as fuck for 3 days at a time, or at all, especially with your medical history. I watched my mother bury her son due to cancer and it literally killed her, she was gone within a month of his death.
Take advantage of that second chance those doctors gave you 21 years ago. Live a good life, get clean, go to school, get a job. Geez!!! Don’t be a ?.
Michael Bennett says
Hey man i use to think same thing oh no way my bud smoking doesnt cause heart problems guess what we are so wrong. My bp regularly is 130/84 and my cholestrol is 184 with HDL at 51. Im 57 use to smoke like mad crazy. Until i had my heart attack, i told myself noway i work out i eat good i do everything im suppose to do. But i still went down one of my coronary arteries was over 90 percent clogged. I dont know if the heart disease and cannabis is related but i can count on it there is a connection. If you do continue to use just becareful and aware of what your body is saying to you. Plus be honest with doctor dont leave out any drug use. That way he can treat you properly and what he really has to stand up against. Good luck Bro. Ps i quit completely i feel great first time in 40 years. Yeah i smoked since i was 14 years.
I smoked for 10 years and one night after a normal size joint, i had massive heart palpitations and huge anxiety and the months there after. I stopped instantly but it took around 14 months for my head to return back to normal, ish. I had never suffered from anxiety before, i dont drink, i go to the gym alot and am always in shape. Years later i suffered from an infected tooth, so bad i couldnt sleep so i reverted back to my old friend, lit up and within 20 seconds i had massive palpitations and tight chest, after 20 mins it went away. The next night again i couldnt sleep and was in untold pain and thought id risk it just so i could sleep, two tokes in suddenly felt like i was having a heart attack. Having smoke that s**t since. Not enough studies on it and too many stoners claiming its fine
If you don’t mind me asking, did u ever go to the doctor about those feelings? And if so what did they tell you?
JP Key says
Thank you so much for simply presenting facts on possible correlations between marijuana and heart disease. I also thank you for being an MD who sources properly, and that if I did want to learn more on this subject, I could easily click the link and read for myself.
My boyfriend died of a heart attack in his sleep on Valentine’s Day this year. He was 42. He did smoke marijuana occasionally to relax after work. This article made a lot of sense to me.
im so sorry
I have been a marijuanna user most of my life. I am 55 and suffer from ocassional benign palpitations. Last week after smoking a joint my heart rate increased to 100 – 120 bpm with PAC’s. Yesterday after smoking a joint my heart rate shot up to 175 bpm along with the PAC’s. I used my Alivecor heart monitor to record the event, send it in for an analysis and the results were afib with rapid ventricular response sustained. After reseaching what RVR is and after reading this article I am now convinced that marijuanna does have an ill effect on the heart. Enough to make me go cold turkey.
I haven’t done any research, but I wonder if the amount smoked and strength of the strain affect. I have definitely noticed that smoking beyond three ‘buffs’ in one sitting tends to raise my heart rate. Less than that usually has no effect, and doesn’t make me as anxiou/paranoid. Thank u for writing this article.
Tim Shankle says
I’ve used marijuana for over 40 years. I recently had stage 3 squamous throat cancer and after trying 5 different types of medications for nausea my physician put me on Marinol which helped a little. He then told me to smoke it and the results were great no nausea. I hadn’t used marijuana for over 15 years till then and had no side effects. In my younger days I did experience what we called paranoia which caused a rise in heart rate. If people don’t use it in moderation then it may be a problem for some to experience anxiety and increased heart rate but I doubt very seriously fatality from it
James Portder says
I am a male 65 and have smoked marijuna since I was 18, I have always had high blood pressue.I had a heart attack on 12/24/16.A clogged artery.Not saying marijuna use caused it,but after reading several articles on the use of it and heart disease,it alarmed me.I will not indulge in the smoking anymore. I loved the peaceful high but its not worth dying for. Thanks so much for this helpful study. Sincerely JC
Ibhar Mac Suibhne says
And is there any studies indicating any negative effects on one heart if you eat cannabis in cookies or hash cakes …. Yes I agree smoking, it has to be bad, but oral consumption ?
Great question especially now as cannabis oils with a high cbd and low thc is being used by parkinson patients is on the rise. Majority of Parkinson sufferers are experiencing less tremors and pain do to cannabis oil use. I wonder if inhalation and holding one’s breath is the issue with temporary heart rate increase and anxiety associated with the use of marijuana.
I am wondering, is this only in relation to people who have heart disease? I have non sustained lower right ventricular tachycardia, but they are benign, and I also have PACs, but my heart scans as otherwise healthy. I have considered trying smoking marijuana again as I had several years ago for anxiety, but I am wondering if it might cause issues even though my heart problems are benign.
I have used for over 30 years everyday and the last few years noticed a change the feeling it gave me. I have hypertension and after smoking my heart rate gets higher and had a fluttering in my chest from time to time. Well recently an hour or so after only a couple of tokes I began sweating and shaking uncontrollably and my BP went ton167/100 and higher. Rushed to ER and had a terrible experience getting my BP and HR down to a safe level. After testing was diagnosed with Atrial flutter and now on medications to control it. I could have had a heart attack or stroke if I didn’t go to ER that night. No more smoking for me now! Not worth dying over!
I’d like to know what research has been done when the marijuana is ingested via cookies/brownies etc because I am an ex-smoker (stopped when I had heart attack) and I KNOW that smoking cigarettes used to make my heart race and palpitate so I’m thinking that using marijuana in a smoking form may well be entirely different to ingesting it via food/baking.
Terrie McKinney says
What about CBD tincture only without the THC. This was recommended to be by my doctor for pain due to Imflamation. I was recently diagnosed with A-fib after a trip to the ER that lasted 6hours. I was put on blood thinners and amiodarone. I do have stents in my heart and Fibrosis of the liver. I have never smoked pot or regular cigarettes. I have never done illegal drugs of any type. Would just plain CBD mixed with coconut oil still cause problems with A-Fib?
C. Bessler says
My question as well. My husband has chronic pain, has an implanted spinal stimulator for some relief. He also does have controlled A-Fib and has had an ablation. He will not take any narcotics, but is in such agony. Will the CBD oil give him at least some relief and not cause cardiac issues?
At the age of 51 I had my first A-fib reaction. I smoked cigarettes from age 15 to 24. I casually smoked marijuana from age 18 to 24. My research has shown that A-fib has risen since the early 1960’s. It would have been beneficial to have been informed of the negative effects of marijuana.
No high is worth the cost that I now have to pay for being an ignorant person. The bottom line is that we can go through this life with out getting high.
Bob Mecan says
I think there are going to be more of comments such as I’ve read here-
I’m in Colorado where pot is legal. I hadn’t tried it for a long time, but thought that I would try the edibles as I don’t want to smoke. My main reason was I was drinking too much frankly due to stress and this seemed like a way to get off the bottle and it was. I liked the mellow buzz and it wasn’t bugging my stomach like regular alcohol was- But- after about 2 months of regular minimal use, I ended up with AFIB. I woke up one morning and was dizzy and actually fainted. Ended up in the ER and it took a day and some beta blockers to get my heart rate normal again. I’m in my 50’s and in great shape, no structural heart issues. Anyway- that was my wakeup call. I’m off the booze and no more hooch. That was a scare. I’m hoping I didn’t do any lasting damage requiring ablation, but that is yet to be seen. I’m not into scare tactics and I also preferred the positive articles about hooch, but, understand it’s not necessarily a safe habit.
I had been smoking for about 8-10 years and a few months after my honeymoon trip to vegas in 2014, and several episodes of panic attacks, a racing heart and mild chest pain I found out that I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and my right lung was totally occluded and a piece of the lower right lobe started to die. Not sure if it was from the buds, or the flight, and the doctors arent sure either. Needless to day I have lingering anxiety, possibly PTSD from the whole event and I’ve started back smoking around June of 2018. Sometimes when I smoke I panic because I’ll get palpitations and a racing heart which has resulted in several trips to the ER being told its SVT. Love the buds but I dont think they love me. Your thoughts?
I am 21 years old recently told i have a mitral valve prolapse. It sends me into episodes of light headedness and just weakness in general. Everytime i smoke weed, it sends me into a terrible episode. My heart rate goes up to 170 and in general the weed messes with my blood pressure and heart rate. After quitting i have only had very few minor episodes. So say the least after quitting tobacco and marijuana i feel ten times better.
Hemp is supposed to contain virtually no THC. A few months ago instartrd grinding an ounce of hemp seeds into milk a day every day. Shortly after i started getting a zillion PVCs which i never had any becore. From 8-22 pvcs every minute all day and probably all night. I recorded them with Kardia and heal force heart Moniters. I didnt think it could possibly be that. But finally stopping the hemp and starting again several times showed they were related. I reluctantly gave up the hemp abd gave had zero pvcs. Note i have increased sympathetic tone as a background and do t know if that contributed to the adverse reaction. I have not been able to fibd any wensite tgat linjs hemp to arythymia and indeed says opposite that good for heart problems snd everyone praises its many benefits. Final note is it may have only started when i switched to trader joes brand made in cabada but couldnt find the brand i used before and by then disnt want to risk getting back the horrible palpitations.
Jay Mann says
I started eating hemp seed as well because of all the touted health benefits, and I also started getting heart palpitations and racing pulse. No one writes about these negative side effects.
I used to smoke all the time between the ages of 18-20 with no issues. I was functional and it never made me lazy.
14 years ago, I ate a pot cookie and couldn’t move for 6 hours. I experienced monoclonic jerking and severe anxiety. My sister thought it was a reaction to something added – something not just THC.
However, a week ago I decided to try again, and this time i only inhaled what my friend was exhaling.
Within minutes I was lying on my bed, unable to move with my eyes closed. My lungs felt like there were on fire and I was feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
I had my friend call 911. Of course, nobody believed I could be having this severe a reaction off of just one hit.
I was scared for my life until they put oxygen in my nostrils in the ambulance. But I didn’t really feel better until they put some saline into my system.
I experienced the monoclonic jerking again. Only one medical professional was familiar with this phenomenon. A different doctor asked me to stick out my tongue. I could barely do it (my eyes still couldn’t open) and when my tongue jerked out she said “why are you doing that with your tongue.”
I think now that I experienced a heart attack. It makes sense from the symptoms. I couldn’t move. My arms were limp at my sides. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
And at the end, when they discharged me they said there was “nothing wrong” with me and that I was “just really high.”
Even thought the EKG showed a possible atrial enlargement. My symptoms are all in medical journals for THC poisoning but they only wrote me up as “intoxicated.”
I really wish all medical professionals would read journals instead of just act on personal bias. I was treated poorly because they didn’t believe I was experiencing pain, or that I’d lost control of my motor functions.
I’m glad I found this page. I hope you are in dialog with other doctors and researchers about this issue.
Hi , I Just Turned 40 Years Old , I Have Moderate Mitral Prolapse I Was Born Like This.I’ve Been Smoking Marijuana For 25 Years I Have Never Experienced Any Real Bad Feelings After Smoking Only With Tobbaco So I Stopped Cigarettes.I Just Had A Baby Girl She Is The Most Important Person In My Life So Now I’m Thinking Twice on Cutting Back Alot !! Because I Know It Will Cause Damage With Time But After So Many Years Of Smoking I’m Mentally And Physically Adapted To Smoking Herbs So Its Hard To Stop Cold Turkey So I Hope I Can Beat My Bad Habbits And Live A Longer Life To Care For My Baby Girl ,God Bless!!
I have been smoking cannabis regularly for about 23 years. The past 10 years I’ve been a heavy user, being high all day every day. I consume about 1 ounce a week. It is my favorite thing in the world. It makes me feel great, it calms me, makes me sleep great, and makes me a more decent person.
I now have to quit because I am having irregular heartbeats in increasing amount of times. It is as though my heart skips a beat, then has a stronger beat after the skip. It is extremely concerning to me. Also the more I smoke the more it happens. But I can also take 1 hit and experience it. It doesn’t hurt but I know if i continue down this path I will suffer extreme consequences. I really don’t want to quit but I am forced to. I just wanted to share my story because the government has limited the medical knowledge of this plant and so there isn’t much official info out there. Again, I am an extreme long term and heavy user, and so many people might never experience this. I do not drink, i don’t smoke, I am not overweight, but my heart skips when I toke up now. I threw away my medical card and bong, bit of a sad day for me.
How’s your symptoms now? I’m experiencing the same thing.
I am suffuring from palpitation problem for more than 3 months , After i took 1shot of cannibis in bong. Now i cant play or run as my heart beating goes high. Palpitation problems creates unwanted anxiety and i feel life i will die. After taking cannibis that day i realized my mistake and i left smoking cigarretes about 2 months ago. Now my palpitation problem is not going away. Suggest me any way to come out from this.
I had heart surgery in Albuquerque NM and I was prescribed marijuana. It saved my life you clear to site the negative effects how about the positive. Humans will fight for alcohol which is far deadlier and causes more violence. THC helps stop inflammation and helps better than any corporation drug. There are negative and positive. So this is purely your view and dislike for it. Make a list of positive and negative so people can see both. Otherwise you just want people to see it as you do and not for the individual. But the column was a nice read. Thank you.
Dude, stop your lies. I had a heart attack from weed. There is no positive to mention. Stoners are just mentally jaded and believe they need weed and it has positive affects on them when really it doesn’t. It’s called being in denial
I stopped smoking charas but my heart palpitations so fast fast every day I dont know what should I do very confused