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Marijuana associated with heart complications

Man smoking marijuanaA new study is linking marijuana use to serious heart-related complications, some of which could be fatal.

The findings come from a study that analyzed marijuana-related health problems that were included in the French Addictovigilance Network from 2006 to 2010. The nationwide program gathers information about psychoactive drug abuse.

Of the nearly 2,000 marijuana-related issues reported, 35 were associated with cardiovascular complications. This included 20 heart attacks. Another handful was affected by peripheral diseases impacting arteries in the limbs and brain.

Nine patients actually died of complications related to marijuana.

“The interesting thing is that most of the cannabis-related cardiovascular complications appeared in men with an average age of 34,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the NYU Langone Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health. “Even though the numbers are small, we’re talking about life-threatening conditions.”

According to Goldberg, many of these patients exhibited symptoms similar to a transient stroke.

“Now that marijuana use is really a national discussion, it’s important to understand that it may not be as benign as people think,” she said.

Marijuana use in the U.S. remains unclear. According to a recent Gallop poll, 38 percent of Americans have tried the drug at some point. The same survey found that just 7 percent admit to smoking it regularly. However, another report by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center says that marijuana use is on the rise.

The French study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, comes on the heels of a recent U.S. study suggesting that casual marijuana use alters key brain structures. As the debate over legalizing marijuana heats up throughout the country, Goldberg and others warn about the potential risks.

By Marianne Hayes