People with this heart problem need to use cannabis cautiously

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In a new study from Bassett Healthcare Network, researchers tested 2.4 million hospitalized cannabis users and found that those with an arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder) were 4.5 times more likely to die while in hospital than those without.

They suggest people should be aware of this devastating outcome and be careful when using cannabis if they have a concomitant heart problem.

Marijuana or cannabis is the most commonly used psychoactive substance worldwide. However, there is limited knowledge about the safety of the drug in people with cardiac arrhythmias.

In the study, the team examined the burden of arrhythmias in drug users admitted to the hospital. It also compared the length of hospital stay and deaths in hospital between those with and without an arrhythmia.

The study used the National Inpatient Sample database, which covers 97% of the US population. It included 2,457,544 adult cannabis users admitted to hospital from 2016 to 2018.

Of those, 187,825 (7.6%) patients had an arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation was the most common, followed by abnormally slow heart rate and abnormally fast heart rate.

Patients in the arrhythmia group were older: the average age was 50.5 years compared to 38.3 years for those without an arrhythmia. Those with arrhythmias also had more co-existing health conditions.

The team found cannabis users with arrhythmia had 4.5 times higher odds of in-hospital mortality compared to those without arrhythmia.

Patients with arrhythmia had a longer length of hospital stay (5.7 days) compared to those without (5.1 days).

The study highlights that heart rhythm disorders may be a warning sign for an increased risk of death in people who use cannabis.

The team says it is sensible to screen these patients for arrhythmias if they present to the hospital so that those with a heart rhythm problem can be closely monitored.

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The study was presented at EHRA 2021. One author of the study is Dr. Sittinun Thangjui.

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