Cannabis Use and Heart Health
Today, we live in a world where marijuana has become quite accessible, mainly due to the increasing knowledge about its therapeutic benefits. While the legalization of the drug in some parts of the world happened only recently, is cultivation and use for a variety of recreational and medicinal purposes dates back to thousands of years.
The widespread usage of medical cannabis for treating and managing various health conditions and proofs of its efficiency provided by many users made scientists research studies and trails. Although the effects of medical marijuana on human health are still under investigation, it has been made legal in some parts of the world for treating certain diseases, such as nausea, anxiety, and chronic pain. This is because of the availability of enough evidence, both scientific and anecdotal. But, the drug has not been declared completely safe by researchers and healthcare professionals, yet. This is because scientists have to consider numerous factors in order to affirm the efficiency of a drug and to declare it safe for use.
When it comes to medical cannabis, scientific studies and clinical trials have provided varying results. While the drug has shown effectiveness in treating certain diseases and in managing symptoms of various health problems, the picture is not clear regarding its long-term effects on different organs of the body; heart is one of them.
How does marijuana affects the human heart? Does it promote heart health or have negative effects upon it? This is one question that has not been answered or has not been studied well at the moment.
According to researchers, a major hurdle in the study of marijuana is its classification as a Schedule I drug because that makes it difficult for them to conduct rigorous research on cannabis. Also, many studies that were conducted to study the effects of marijuana on heart health were plagued by several problems. Some of them were conducted for very short terms, while others were small scale. Many studied the wrong groups of people.
A study published at the Annals of Internal Medicine website concluded that “evidence examining the effect of marijuana on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes, including stroke and myocardial infarction, is insufficient”.
A report, published in January 2017, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also stated similar conclusion. According to the researchers, the evidence was insufficient to refute or support the claim that marijuana can increase the risks of heart attack.
Numerous studies found that the use of marijuana can increase the heart rate and blood pressure. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart attack and could also promote the development of other heart issues, such as arrhythmia. But, there are also researchers that found the opposite. Alexander Strokes, a researcher from Hawaii, is of the view that a compound derived from cannabis can help treating heart disease. According to him, the compound encourages the heart to work harder to pump blood by activating a receptor. Recently, he has also secured a patent for this compound.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical present in cannabis plant, has also shown some positive effects on cardiovascular health in animals. Also, it was found to help in recovering from stroke and heart attack. While this has led scientists to discern that the strains of cannabis that have low THC and high CBD levels might provide benefits for heart health, this cannot be taken as the final verdict. Clinical trials on humans are needed to establish the efficacy of medical marijuana or CBD for cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, the method of cannabis use is also an important consideration, in the entire process. For example, scientists and healthcare professionals strongly advise against smoking cannabis. The reason is quite simple; smoking of any kind is injurious to health and can cause many problems, including heart issues.
To benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana, doctors advise using the drug either in the form of a medicine, infused tea or by applying it topically, depending on the problem one is trying to resolve. There are also many other factors that need to be taken into account to find out if medical marijuana can provide health benefits to a person. These include factors like a person’s age and gender, medical history, other medicines that the person may be using or have used recently, family history of diseases and overall health. The strain of medical cannabis that is used is another highly important consideration that many research studies have seemed to ignore. In general, THC has been found to be responsible for the activation of CB1 receptors, which, in turn, causes an increase in the heart rate. THC also lowers the blood pressure.
How does medical cannabis affect heart health?
We don’t have the exact answer, yet.
The research regarding the effects of cannabis on human cardiovascular system is in preliminary stages and scientists are still very far from providing a precise answer. To reach a definitive conclusion, there is a need for research studies that are conducted on larger groups of people for long terms.