In a study from Gentofte University Hospital, scientists found people who use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain may have a slightly heightened risk of heart arrhythmias.
They found that among 1.6 million people with chronic pain, those people who were prescribed medical marijuana were 64% more likely to suffer a heart rhythm disturbance in the next six months.
The absolute risk was small: about 0.9% of patients on medical marijuana developed an arrhythmia, compared to 0.5% of those not taking the drug.
In the study, the researchers used a national database with medical records from 1.6 million patients with chronic pain (related to cancer, arthritis, neurological conditions, and other causes).
Just under 4,600 of them filled at least one prescription for medical cannabis.
In Denmark, there are three approved forms of the drug, all taken orally, including oral solutions and sprays of CBD; teas containing a mix of THC and CBD; and dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC.
The study found pain patients on any form of medical marijuana were more likely to develop a heart arrhythmia in the six months after their first prescription, versus other patients.
Opioid use typically signals severe pain—which itself could contribute to some arrhythmias,
Researchers noted that some arrhythmias are more serious than others, and it’s unclear whether medical marijuana was tied to any particular forms.
But chemicals in marijuana are known to affect the cardiovascular system—including heart rate, blood pressure, and the tendency to form blood clots.
And the findings add to concerns about the risks of using the drug, medicinally or otherwise.
For more information about cannabis, please see recent studies that heavy cannabis use may decrease the incidence of diabetes, and results showing this stuff in cannabis may protect the aging brain and treat Alzheimer’s.
The study was conducted by Nina Nouhravesh et al and presented at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology
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