Pot Smoking May Pose Heart Dangers, Study Suggests
But some believe the study is flawed
Most of the study patients were male, with an average age of 34. Of 22 heart-related cases, there were 20 heart attacks. Another 10 involved disease related to arteries in the limbs, and three were related to the brain's arteries.
In 16 of the 35 cases (46 percent), the patients either had personal risk factors for heart disease or a family history of heart problems, according to the report.
The amount of cardiovascular disease among marijuana users is most likely underreported, given that the drug is illegal, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The study authors said it's estimated that 1.2 million people in France regularly use marijuana.
"Because of marijuana being illegal, it is most likely these statistics are less reported and that it underestimates the amount of younger people whose behavior has affected their hearts," Steinbaum said. "In younger people who have risks for cardiovascular disease, whether it be their own risk factors or their family history, there needs to be an understanding that using marijuana might be an unsafe choice for them and can lead to cardiovascular events, and potentially death."
But Earleywine said the study's reliance on an incomplete database renders its observations meaningless.
"In short, this study tells us a lot about what kinds of cardiac complications appeared in people who were reported to the French government for cannabis-related problems, but tells us little about the link between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease," he said.
Dr. Martha Daviglus, adjunct professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, acknowledged that the study has flaws. However, she added that such research is needed given that medicinal and recreational marijuana use is becoming more widely accepted.
"We need to gain more evidence, as we did with alcohol or tobacco smoking, so people understand the risks of using these substances," Daviglus said.