Study: Marijuana Heart Attack Risk Claims Unfounded
Researchers at the American College of Cardiology 2016 Scientific Sessions have presented new evidence that seems to debunk common marijuana heart attack risk claims. Not only does prior marijuana use not seem to affect survival factors after suffering a heart attack, it seems marijuana use may improve post-heart attack survival factors while still in the hospital.
Investigators culled data from over one million heart attack patients, with over 3,800 who had reported prior marijuana use. After controlling for confounding variables like age, race, and known heart attack risk factors, the researchers found that the marijuana consumers were no more likely to die or face another heart attack than the marijuana-abstinent patients.
“We already know that marijuana helps with pain and cataracts,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman of Denver’s National Jewish Health to Medscape’s heartwire, adding, “we should be looking deeper into it, just as we should with any drug.”
While there was no long-term survival difference between those patients who consumed marijuana and those who didn’t, the rates for dying post-heart attack while in the hospital were lower for the marijuana consumers. Risks for shock among the marijuana patients was much lower as were the risks from using an intra-aortic balloon pump during heart surgery on those patients.
However, marijuana-using patients did have an increased risk for assisted breathing while in the hospital after a heart attack. Researchers hypothesize there may be some connection to the smoking of marijuana, rather than the marijuana itself, that may require mechanical ventilation more often.
“This suggests that the theory that the smoke is more damaging is probably the real deal,” said Dr. Freeman. “And we need to be very cautious about that.”
The study is limited in that it cannot make claims that marijuana use leads to greater survival rates in-hospital for heart attack victims. The study’s lead author, medical student Cecelia Johnson-Sasso at University of Colorado-Denver, cautions that there is no causal proof of “what appears to be prevention from death.”
While Johnson-Sasso and her team are careful to stress they aren’t advocating for marijuana use, they also are optimistic about the medical ramifications of their research. “More basic science and clinical research are definitely needed,” said Johnson-Sasso. “We can’t yet make recommendations, but I’d say to keep this information in mind as more research is being done.” If other studies replicate these findings, she adds, “further investigation into the possible therapeutic benefit of CB-receptor agonists in [myocardial infarction] may be warranted.”