HealthDay News — Young adults who use cannabis may experience serious, sometimes fatal cardiovascular complications, according to researchers.
From 2006 to 2010, 35 of 1,979 cannabis-related reports of serious adverse events involved cardiovascular complications (1.8%), Emilie Jouanjus, PharmD, PhD, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The majority of the adverse events were cardiac complications (22), but there were also 10 peripheral complications, and three cerebral complications. In 9 patients, the cardiovascular event led to death.
“Given that cannabis is perceived to be harmless by the general public and that legalization of its use is debated, data concerning its danger must be widely disseminated,” the researchers wrote. “Practitioners should be aware that cannabis may be a potential triggering factor for cardiovascular complications in young people.”
The findings come from an analysis of the national database of the French Addictovigilance Network, which collects information on serious cases of abuse of and dependence on psychoactive substances.
Among the 35 cases of adverse events reported from cannabis use, a higher proportion of cardiovascular complications occurred in men (85.7%). Nine had a personal history of cardiovascular disease; seven had a familial history; 60% reported smoking tobacco. Average patient age was 34.3 years.
Study limitation included the low number of overall adverse events and inability to determine whether complications were directly related to cannabis use.
Currently, 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes, and two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized recreational use of the drug.
As more states consider legalization, officials must consider safety issues, Shereif Rezkalla, MD, of the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Robert Kloner, MD, PhD, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, suggested in an accompanying editorial.
“It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use,” Rezkalla and Kloner wrote.
They suggested creating a national system in the United States, similar to the one in France, to capture potential marijuana-related complications.