There are two schools of thought about marijuana effects on the heart. One group of medical professionals see it as completely dangerous. On the other side, researchers see the overall good of cannabis, while acknowledging the dangers of smoking the popular plant. However, despite these differences, both opposing viewpoints can find common ground in the middle.
What Does the Research Show?
Much of the older case studies about cannabis and heart disease or blood pressure are all gloom and doom. Don't let this bit of information scare you away. Many of these papers are flawed. The researchers themselves exclaim that many people who smoke marijuana also use tobacco cigarettes and drink alcohol. In the past, before legalization and solid data about medical cannabis became available, it was common for cannabis to be associated with other drugs, including tobacco and alcohol.
In addition, the negative studies often use inflammatory language with no scientific backing, such as:
"Marijuana has been known as a "gateway drug" for decades, and its regular use in adolescents is clearly associated with an increased risk for abuse and dependence on other illicit drugs."
The statement above came from The Journal of Missouri State Medical Association in the study, "The Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana: Are the Potential Adverse Effects Worth the High?"
The "gateway drug" theory was debunked by the original authors of the study, which shows the real gateway drug is nicotine.
"Epidemiologic studies have shown that nicotine use is a gateway to the use of marijuana and cocaine in human populations."
Nonetheless, times have changed. Now, many cannabis patients and even recreational users don't smoke cigarettes or also drink. This means that the studies over the past few years are more accurate. And these studies are helping medical practitioners sort out facts and fiction about marijuana and blood pressure, as well as conditions, such as heart disease.
For example, The Heart Rhythm Society released a press release in 2018 highlighting new research that suggests smoking cannabis may NOT increase risks of ventricular fibrillation (VF) and ventricular tachycardia (VT) after a heart attack.
One of the study's authors explained to the association:
"The legalization of marijuana is spreading quickly across the U.S., resulting in more people using it, but we still don't know the true, long-term impact it has on one's heart health. Our study is the first to examine the relationship between marijuana use after a heart attack and various arrhythmias, and we did not see a negative connection … We are just one step closer to a better understanding of the various heart effects of marijuana so that we are able to take the necessary actions to provide optimal patient care."
Psychological Effects of Consuming Cannabis
Many of the effects of consuming cannabis are psychological. The term psychology, according to Merriam-Webster, is 'the science of mind and behavior." When assessing the negative associations and benefits of marijuana, the psychological effects are how the plant affects the mind and behavior and weighing the good vs. the bad.
For example, many people don't like how they feel when they've drunk too much alcohol. They may also be consciously aware that it leads to inappropriate behaviors. To account for these psychological effects of alcohol, these people often limit how much they drink to prevent these problems.
As mentioned, cannabis does affect the mind. While you don't need to go to the hospital if you consume too much, many people end up there. Paranoia induced by marijuana can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Although none of these reactions have proven fatal, there are no known overdoses or deaths from cannabis use.
Physical Effects of Consuming Cannabis
There are physical effects of consumption includes marijuana effect on the heart. Cannabis does increase blood pressure and heart rate. However, so does exercise. In both cases, the results are short-term. Other physical effects include dry mouth, red eyes, reduced coordination, anxiety, and sometimes, drowsiness.
Edibles and Their Effects on Heart
Edibles can increase the psychological reaction to cannabis, which in return can cause your heart rate to grow and lead to cardiac issues. It's important to start low and go slow with any cannabis or CBD use until you know how it's going to affect you. Edibles are much more potent than smoking cannabis and last much longer. Too much THC can spike your heart rate and put excess strain on it.
Does marijuana lower blood pressure?
Consumers are asking about marijuana and blood pressure. They want to know if marijuana increases or decreases it.
Does marijuana increase heart rate?
Research shows that marijuana raises the heart rate during the first hour after smoking marijuana. However, experts don't know if that happens because of smoke or cannabis. Smoking nicotine increases heart rates. Harvard Health Publishing explains what they do know well in this excerpt from an article published in 2017 and updated in 2019.
"One of the few things scientists know for sure about marijuana and cardiovascular health is that people with established heart disease who are under stress develop chest pain more quickly if they have been smoking marijuana than they would have otherwise. This is because of complex effects cannabinoids have on the cardiovascular system, including raising resting heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and making the heart pump harder. Research suggests that the risk of heart attack is several times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana than it would be normally."
Is smoking weed bad for your heart?
Smoking anything is bad for your heart. You can safely vape cannabis and consume edibles with the same effects on your mind and body as smoking but without the added risk of heart troubles. Again, studies go both ways. One study regarding cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is a leading cause of death among adults in the U.S., found that only 2.3% of people that reported smoking marijuana also had CVD. Given that nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from the disease, 2.3% is relatively low.
Can people with heart disease smoke cannabis?
If you have heart disease, you shouldn't smoke anything. It may be safe to use other forms of cannabis, such as vaping, oils, and even muscle rubs. But some cannabinoids and enzymes may interfere with any current medications you're taking. Before using any form of cannabis, you should speak with your medical care team.
Research is still ongoing. Cannabinoid experts don't have a 100% answer about marijuana effects on the heart. However, all medical professionals agree: Anything you smoke isn't good for your body and can be extremely dangerous for your heart and overall health.