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Medical Marijuana and Cardiac Health - An Overview

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Marijuana has potential side effects when used in the long term. The below article will explain the impacts of marijuana use on cardiac health.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Published At December 23, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 2, 2023


The word marijuana refers to products from Cannabis Sativa plant that contain significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol. Marijuana is used as a medicine and also as an addictive drug. Marijuana, or weed or herb, is a greenish-gray mixture of dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis comprises 100 compounds, including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a commonly used illegal federal drug in the United States of America. Cannabis is made of psychoactive chemicals or cannabinoids unique to the plant. The most important psychoactive chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes psychoactive effects when smoked or ingested. The chemical is present in the leaves and buds of female cannabis plants. The plant contains more than 500 chemicals, including many compounds related to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is different from THC. On the contrary, CBD’s benefits include reducing inflammation, stress, and risk of heart disease.

What Are the Effects of Marijuana?

The main ingredient is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana or cannabis, which makes the person feel very high. Tetrahydrocannabinol gets bound to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, blood vessels, tissues, and muscles. Other common effects include;

  • Increased appetite.

  • Laughter.

  • Altered perception of time.

  • Altered sensory perception.

Smoking THC results in more THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) being absorbed into the bloodstream than eating or drinking. It also causes anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic. Individuals who take large doses of marijuana may experience psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and loss of sense of personal identity. When used over time, people can get long-term psychotic disorders. The higher the concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol in marijuana higher the effects on the brain. According to the American Lung Association, weed has toxins and carcinogens like cigarettes. Frequent use of marijuana may have a negative impact on heart health. The compound THC has damaging effects on the heart and vascular system. The concentration of THC in marijuana has increased a lot over the past few years.

Smoking cannabis releases compounds such as nitrogen oxides and hydrogen cyanide, which has side effects on the heart and vascular systems. THC has a delayed effect on the body but causes more side effects once it reaches the bloodstream. There is a risk of lung injury from vitamin E acetate in THC products.

Marijuana is associated with the following:

  • Damage to the airway lining.

  • Chronic bronchitis (a type of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) that results in a productive cough of more than three months to two years duration).

It can also lead to addiction. The following are the signs of marijuana-induced disorder;

  • Use of marijuana despite social problems.

  • Need for marijuana for recreational desires increases.

  • Spending a lot of time using the drug.

  • Using the drug while driving.

  • Problems with memory, attention, and understanding.

  • Encounter withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drug.

The use of marijuana in pregnancy can cause health problems in newborns, including low birth weight and atypical neurological development. The psychoactive chemical can pass to the infant through secondhand smoke.

What Are the Effects of Marijuana on Cardiac Health?

Marijuana increases the heart rate as well as the blood pressure straight away after use. Chemicals in cannabis are linked to a high risk of heart attack, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. THC stimulates the heart, promotes vascular inflammation (inflammation of cells that line the heart’s blood vessels), and activates the sympathetic nervous system. It can also cause high blood pressure, stroke, and abnormal heart rhythms.

Can Smoking Weed Constrict Blood Vessels?

Cannabis Arteritis: Cannabis can inflame arteries, damage blood vessel walls, and decrease the blood flow to the organs. It blocks the arteries of the extremities through inflammation, causing tissue death.

Platelet Aggregation: The platelets form tiny plaques which block the blood vessels and obstruct normal blood flow to the body causing tissue infarction. THC is a marker for atherosclerosis (plaque formation in the blood vessels) and increases the risk of stroke.

Cannabis-Induced Vasospasm: Vasospasm (thinning of the muscular wall of the artery) causes contraction of walls of the blood vessels leading to decreased blood flow. Cannabinoids inhibit the action of some enzymes in the body, which affects the metabolism of drugs prescribed for heart disease, like -

  • Warfarin.

  • Beta-blockers.

  • Calcium channel blockers.

  • Antiarrhythmic, such as Amiodarone.

  • Cholesterol medications are called statins.

Does Weed Make the Heart Rate Rise?

  • Cannabis can temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure because it causes coagulation (a process in which blood changes from liquid form and becomes thicker).

  • Epidemiological data reveals that cannabis can significantly cause palpitations (abnormal awareness of one’s heartbeat; fast heartbeat) and tachycardia (increased heart rate).

  • It increases sympathetic activity and reduces parasympathetic activity leading to tachycardia and raised cardiac output. In patients with heart disease, it increases heart contractility and reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

  • These reactions stimulate plaque formation (a buildup of fats and cholesterol on the arterial walls), ultimately leading to atherosclerosis.

Who Is at Risk of Complications From Using Marijuana?

People with the following conditions have the highest risk:

  • History of heart disease.

  • Irregular heart rhythm.

  • Already under some medications.

  • Comorbid conditions.

Young patients and those with no history of underlying heart disease are less likely to have a risk from THC. Other potential risks to young people include brain and mental health deterioration.

Is Marijuana Used In Medicine?

Marijuana is used instead of opioids for treating neuropathic pain (a type of pain caused by damaged nerves). Cannabinoids (CBD) are effective in nausea and vomiting. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized THC-based medications such as dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet) for nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients. The medications also improve appetite in people with cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Nabiximols (Sativex) is a mouth spray for treating spasticity and neuropathic pain that may accompany multiple sclerosis.

How to Manage Side Effects of Medical Marijuana?

  • Detoxification (a process of eliminating a substance of dependence from the body that does not disturb the body’s normal functions).

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • Rehabilitation.

  • Contingency management treats addictions, including weed, smoking, and alcoholism. It reinforces positive behavior and gives rewards successfully for combatting relapse, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

  • Medications play an important role in recovery, along with behavioral therapy.


Marijuana has some medicinal uses, but increased recreational use can be risky, and users must think carefully before excessive use. Those with a history of heart disease should be cautious about marijuana use, as emerging evidence shows that smoking THC has cardiac side effects. However, further research is needed to understand how cannabis affects the heart.

Frequently Asked Questions


Describe the Cardiac Care Unit?

A hospital ward designated to caring for patients with heart attacks, unstable angina, cardiac dysrhythmia, and other cardiac illnesses that demand constant monitoring and treatment is known as a cardiac care unit, also referred to as a cardiac intensive care unit.


What Is a Heart and Vascular Center’s Definition?

The term "heart and vascular services" refers to the branch of medical specialty focusing on the cardiovascular system. It offers skilled, coordinated care for heart and blood vascular illnesses. As a result, one will receive the highest level of knowledge and a comprehensive choice of alternatives for diagnosing, preventing, and treating heart disease.


What Is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

The term "cardiac diet" refers to an unofficial name for a heart-healthy diet. It is a diet that emphasizes heart-healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean chicken, and oily fish like salmon and tuna, high in omega-3 fatty acids, which include substances that may help prevent cardiovascular disease.


What Are the Dietary Recommendations for Heart Health?

Once a person knows which foods to eat more of and which to avoid, one will be well on the way to a heart-healthy diet.
 - Limit one’s portion sizes.
 - Consume more fruits and vegetables.
 - Choose whole grains like farro, quinoa, or barley.
 - Cut back on bad fats.
 - Choose lean meat, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs as protein sources.


What Are the Foods to Avoid if One Has Heart Disease?

High salt, sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrate intake over time increases the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Top foods that cardiologists advise against eating for a sound heart include red meat, fried food like french fries and other deep-fried food, sugary beverages and cereals, potato chips and other snack foods, full-fat dairy products, baked goods like cookies and pastries, bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meats.


What Are the Requirements for Obtaining a Medicinal Marijuana Card?

Requirements for medicinal marijuana identification cards are: 
 - Completed CDPH 9042 MMIC application/renewal form.
 - Identity documentation.
 - Evidence of residence.
 - For one or more significant medical conditions, medicinal marijuana may be used according to written advice from the doctor or from CDPH 9044.


How to Obtain a Marijuana Medical Card?

Consult with the primary care physician as the initial step in obtaining a medicinal marijuana card. If medical marijuana is necessary for treating the illness, the doctor will decide and will go through any risks or side effects with the patient. One can proceed with the procedure as soon as the doctor gives the go-ahead.


What Effects Does Marijuana Have on the Brain?

The most typical medical application of marijuana is to treat pain. Medical marijuana has shown promise in treating chronic aches and pains, particularly those brought on by age, but it is not strong enough to take the place of medications recommended after surgery. Medicinal marijuana is an alternative to Ibuprofen or Paracetamol and is less addictive than opioids.


What Qualifies for Medical Marijuana in MD?

State regulations governing medicinal marijuana differ, as do the diseases that can be treated with it. States that authorize the use of medical marijuana often allow it to be used to treat:
 - Cancer.
 - AIDS and HIV.
 - Glaucoma.
 - Crohn's illness.
 - MS (multiple sclerosis).
If one has persistent problems that affect the quality of life, the primary care doctor could advise trying medicinal marijuana, depending on the state's laws.


What Conditions Warrant the Use of Medicinal Marijuana?

The use of marijuana can raise one's risk of heart attack, stroke, and other vascular illnesses. The use of marijuana has been linked to a higher incidence of psychosis. The risk of pregnancy problems may arise when a person uses marijuana while pregnant. Cannabis is used for various reasons, but several frequently cited include relaxation, stress alleviation, and overall well-being. Several people claim to use cannabis for both leisure and symptom alleviation.
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Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq



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