New study finds marijuana use is associated with a higher rate of survival after heart attack

Published May 31, 2019 01:51 p.m. ET
Credit: Tharakorn

Though medical professionals have long implied a negative impact on a person’s heart health from consuming marijuana, there is now reason to believe that it might provide some benefit to sufferers from more common heart-related issues like heart attacks. Though there is still plenty of cannabis research to be done, it appears as though the newly legal substance is shocking medical professionals worldwide.

According to the American Heart Association, heart attacks take the lives of well over 22 000 people in the United States alone every single year, which translates to 1 in every three deaths that occur across the country. Research into the benefits of medical marijuana has now shone a light on the potential for cannabinoids to assist in the recovery of patients who have just suffered a heart attack, and the results are incredible.

What is a heart attack?

The human body contains an extensive network of coronary arteries, which are blood vessels that connect with the heart to feed it oxygen and essential nutrients. When one of those arteries becomes clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. A heart attack is sometimes fatal and often sudden resulting in tissue death of the impacted blood vessels.

Cannabis and heart attacks

Though marijuana plants produce powerful medicinal elements like CBD and THC, it has long been believed that smoking cannabis would increase a person’s chance of experiencing heart problems. When you smoke marijuana, it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which can be a potential trigger for myocardial infarction. The same is true for exercise, stress, and many other typical day to day activities, so heart attacks are not necessarily caused by marijuana use, instead they might be triggered by it. For those who do suffer from poor health, it is highly recommended to use micro-dosed cannabis edibles instead of other less healthy alternative methods of ingestion.

The study

Cannabis researchers from the University of Colorado studied the medical records of 1.3 million individuals from all over the world, including an in-depth record of patient outcomes after experiencing AMI (acute myocardial infarctions emergencies). Out of just over 1 million patients, only 3854 admitted to marijuana use, and those records became the base for most of this study. The goal was originally to seek any possible adverse effects of cannabis on heart health, so the positive outcome of the publicly released results ended up as a surprise to many and seen as a win in the medical marijuana community.

The results

Though there is still plenty of speculation around the reason why these benefits can be seen remains unknown, there were several critical highlights that came out of the university’s cannabis research.

  • Individuals who admitted to marijuana use had a much higher chance of surviving a heart attack.
  • Cannabis consumers have a much lower risk of experiencing cardiogenic shock, which often requires an angioplasty and results in death.
  • Marijuana use is strongly associated with a dramatic decrease in hospital mortality rates of patients who were admitted after experiencing cardiac arrest.
  • Patients who used marijuana within 24 hours before suffering from AMI had an even better chance at survival and less requirement of outside interventions.

What does this mean?

Medical marijuana remains at the forefront of cannabinoid research, and the benefits are beginning to show, but it is important to note that these statistics only account for the short-term recovery rates of patients who have suffered from cardiac arrest.  The long-term adverse effects on the heart health of marijuana users remain unknown, and the reasons behind this well documented change in the outcome of cannabis consumers are still mostly misunderstood. Though new questions have arisen from this brand new cannabis research, the results of this study do seem to imply that cannabis does have the ability to better the outcome of heart attack survivors, which is a massive win and a positive confirmation of some of the long believed benefits of marijuana use.

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