New research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016 shows that marijuana users are almost twice as likely to develop stress cardiomyopathy than non-users, even after adjusting for known risk factors such as depression, psychosis, anxiety disorder, alcoholism, tobacco use, and multiple substance use.

“The effects of marijuana, especially on the cardiovascular system, are not well known yet. With its increasing availability and legalization in some states, people need to know that marijuana may be harmful to the heart and blood vessels in some people,” said study co-author Amitoj Singh, M.D. 

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Using data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, researchers at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania identified 33,342 patients as being hospitalized with stress cardiomyopathy, of which 210 were found to be marijuana user. The marijuana users tended to be young males with few cardiovascular risk factors, however despite their lack of risk factors, during stress cardiomyopathy, they were significantly more likely to go into cardiac arrest compared to non-users (2.4% vs. 0.8%, respectively). Marijuana users were also more likely to need an implanted defibrillator compared to non-users (2.4% vs. 0.6%, respectively). 

Given that this was a retrospective study, the authors could not determine the frequency of marijuana use by these patients or what the timeframe was between use and stress cardiomyopathy occurrence. In addition, the database used in this study reports regional statistics so researchers were unable to analyze whether cardiomyopathy is on the rise in states where marijuana use is legal.

“If you are using marijuana and develop symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to make sure you aren’t having stress cardiomyopathy or another heart problem,” Singh said.

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