“Marijuana may be bad for your heart” – so says the headline on the website who broke the story, LiveScience.com.
In less than four hours, NewsMaxHealth.com picked up the feed and copy/pasted the LiveScience.com story, but gave the headline a bit of a twist so that theirs reads “Marijuana Causes Heart Problems”.
Well now, that sure escalated quickly.
So what’s the deal? Just how worried should pot-smokers be about how their habit affects their heart?
Well, if its solid answers grounded in science and logic you want, the LiveScience.com article and its various spin-offs are not a very satisfying place to search.
The click-bait article begins with a hell of an opening shot, claiming, “A healthy 21-year-old man had a heart attack after smoking marijuana, and the doctors who treated him believe the drug is what caused his heart attack, according to a new report of this case.”
The man says that after playing in a soccer game, he developed a sharp pain on the left side of his chest. He went to the emergency room at the hospital in Wales, and doctors there told him that he had indeed suffered from a minor heart attack.
Either through his own admission, or through blood tests, the doctor’s discovered that the man enjoys a puff of cannabis once in a while, and that’s when the facts started getting fuzzy.
In Europe, the way that doctors typically gauge a patient’s risk for a potential heart attack is by using what they call the SCORE system – or the Systematic Coronary Risk Evaluation system. The SCORE system has traditionally listed five major contributing factors that increase a patient’s risk for heart attack; obesity, laziness, old age, elevated cholesterol levels, and tobacco use. They recently added a sixth to the list: smoking cannabis.
So when they discovered that this 21-year old British man had THC in his system at the time of the heart attack, the doctors used some controversial new research to paint a bullseye around their arrow.
They pointed to recent cases of other men who suffered from cardiac arrest and had weed in their system, or even just in their pocket.
They pointed to an incredibly limited study of 2000 French folks which brazenly reported that “the death rate due to cardiovascular disease from marijuana use was as high as 25.6 percent”.
You’d think we’d hear about it at least once in a while here in the States if 1 out of every 4 stoners was having a heart attack by the age of 40.
In fact, this one British dude’s marijuana use is mentioned five times in the piece before we learn by way of a throw-away line that he also happens to be a cigarette smoker. It is not until paragraph eight that we learn he had a history of cocaine use as well.
Coke snorting, cig huffing soccer player has heart problems…must be the weed.
The man was found to have abnormally high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and had been to the ER once before under similar conditions (again after a soccer game).
For the record, last year the American Journal of Medicine released a study showing that regular marijuana users were indeed shown to have higher levels of HDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as the “good cholesterol”. Their research showed that this led to potheads having smaller waistlines and more efficient insulin levels, not friggin’ heart attacks.
Back to the 21-year old in Britain. “Although our patient was a cigarette smoker and had elevated lipid levels, cannabis use was identified as the most significant precipitant of his acute coronary syndrome”, the authors of this most recent study somehow reported with straight faces.
It would be almost just as stupid to say, “He had to go to the ER twice after soccer games, therefore soccer causes heart attacks”…almost.
By the way, cocaine use and cigarette smoking are two of the most “well-recognized triggers” for acute coronary syndrome.
The reality of the situation is that the science of the effects of cannabis use on the heart is still in its infancy when it comes to legitimate lab testing and reliable studies.
A 2013 report released by the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that marijuana users may indeed be at a higher risk for heart disease, but even they had to couch their theory in with the assumption that cannabis users “frequently combine use with smoking tobacco or other illicit drugs”.
If cannabis use by people with a family history of heart problems is an issue, even if it’s just a minor issue, we need to know about it. But how can we believe anything said by medical “experts” all doped up on anti-cannabis lobbyist money?
Conversely, we do have 5000 years and counting of mankind’s use of cannabis, and again, if 1 out of 4 (or even 1 out of 4000!) users was getting a heart attack from their weed, we wouldn’t need flighty websites to announce it, we’d be seeing our peers keeling over in mid-sesh.