Study links pot use to hypertension, but doctor say study is 'flawed'


A new study says people who smoke marijuana are three times as likely to die from hypertension, or high blood pressure, than non-users of the drug.

The lead study author Barbara Yankey who is a PhD student in the School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, US said that they researched that marijuana users had a greater than threefold risk of death from hypertension and the risk increased with each additional year of use.

Researchers designed a retrospective follow-up study of 1,213 people age 20 or older using 2005-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.

The study also tracked the causes of death for people who admitted to ever using marijuana.

Yankey and colleagues estimated HRs for hypertension, heart disease and cerebrovascular mortality as a result of marijuana use by conducting Cox proportional hazard regression analyses.

Even more surprising, the researchers suggest that marijuana use may be a greater risk factor for poor heart health than smoking tobacco. Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, [BP] and oxygen demand. "However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality".

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Results suggest marijuana use is more risky for heart health than cigarettes, despite certain campaigners insisting cannabis is safer than tobacco. The researchers acknowledged "the number of smokers in our study was small and this needs to be examined in a larger study".

"Based upon the findings of prior studies, the [new study] authors' interpretation with regard to the degree of this risk potential appears to be sensational, and the methods used in this particular study appear to be highly questionable", Armentano said.

Yankey acknowledged the study had its limitations, including not knowing how often participants used the drug after first use, and not taking into account cardiovascular risks such as diet and exercise. "You would think that the marijuana if it was working on the vascular system to cause some damage, it should cause stroke, it should cause heart disease; it shouldn't [only] cause hypertension", he commented.

Another study published earlier this year, found no connection between cardiovascular health and cannabis.

The risk increases by more than one time for every year of cannabis use.