A new study from France indicates that marijuana use may lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Researchers who put together the study reviewed records from the French Addictovigilance Network, a national system that gathers information about drug use. They found 35 reports, over a four-year period, of patients who had experienced heart problems following cannabis use, according to a CNN story. Many of those patients were young and otherwise healthy individuals.
"There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people," Emilie Jouanjus told the Los Angeles Times.
Jouanjus is the lead author of the study which was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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The findings prompted the AHA to warn that "clinical evidence ... suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use.”
The report calls into question the long-held belief that marijuana is a harmless drug.
“The perception that marijuana is safe is deep-seated in the public and even amongst some health professionals,” said Dr. Sherief Rezkalla, a cardiologist at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin.
Rezkalla recently coauthored an editorial with Dr. Robert Kloner, a cardiologist at the University of Southern California. The piece appeared in the AHA journal and called for collection of more information to assess dangers associated with marijuana use, particularly in the face of growing support for legalization efforts across the country.
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“We believe the time has come to stop and think about the best way to protect our communities from the potential danger of widespread marijuana use in the absence of safety studies,” the editorial read. "It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use."
Jouanjus seemed to agree. He believes his study was a step in the right direction but that more information needs to be collected.
“I'm not saying that any user of cannabis would suffer from any of these complications," he said. “[But] we do not have enough information to say that cannabis use is safe.”