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

Posted August 11, 2017

When compared with non-users, the users of marijuana were 3.42 times more likely to suffer hypertension as a cause of death, and with the addition of each year of use, the risk increased by 1.04 times.

Participants were asked whether they had ever used marijuana.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Georgia, comes as the decriminalisation of marijuana continues to be explored across America - where it has already been criminalised in U.S states such as Colorado, Maine, Nevada, and Washington. The researchers said they established how long the participants had been using marijuana by subtracting the age they first tried pot from their current age.

"We linked participants aged 20 years and above, who responded to questions on marijuana use during the 2005 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to data from the 2011 public-use linked mortality file of the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention", the authors wrote.

Initially, Yankey and her colleagues found no difference in the unadjusted risk of hypertension-related death for either cigarette smokers or marijuana users. This is not surprising since marijuana is known to have a number of effects on the cardiovascular system.

Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system that led to increases in heart rate blood pressure and oxygen demand. There was no association between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease. "Needless to say, the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking".

When it comes to heart health, is marijuana any safer for you than tobacco?

Yankey pointed out that there were limitations to the way marijuana use was estimated. "If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public".

'With the impending increase in recreational marijuana use, it is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks. There was no association between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease.

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.