A 27-year-old man has suffered from a cannabis-induced heart attack, according to a case report by his medical team. Writing in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery, the man's doctors report that he had been referred to their department for post-myocardial infarction (a heart attack) following chest pain a week before his admission.
A narrowing was found in the middle segment of the left anterior descending artery, which was corrected with the implantation of a new generation-stent.
"Cannabis use increases the risk of cardiovascular events, not only in patients with traditional cardiovascular risk factors but also in the younger population without any risk factors," the team wrote in their report.
"Herein, we describe the case of a myocardial infarction caused by cannabis use in a young male with no significant past medical history."
The patient – who was a heavy smoker and long-term cannabis user who eschewed other drugs bar occasional alcohol – did not have any other risk factors for heart disease. He began having chest pain shortly after cannabis use.
"The increasing use of cannabis exposes a major risk for [heart attacks]. The physicians should be vigilant in the diagnosis of cannabis-induced [heart attacks] within young patients, particularly with no cardiovascular risk factors," the team wrote.
"We hope that it will make the public more aware of the deadly consequences of cannabis use on the cardiovascular system and help to reduce the morbi-mortality rates associated with [heart attack] due to cannabis use."
As the report makes clear, reports of cannabis-induced heart attacks are rare and not well understood, with only 51 reported in the literature since the first report in 2003. However, a large-scale study released in April this year also linked cannabis use with an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack.
The study, led by researchers at Stanford Medicine, also found that THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – causes inflammation in cells that line the interior of blood vessels, and atherosclerosis in mice.
“Marijuana has a significantly adverse effect on the cardiovascular system,” instructor of medicine Dr Mark Chandy said in a press release. “As more states legalize marijuana use, I expect we will begin to see a rise in heart attacks and strokes in the coming years. Our studies of human cells and mice clearly outline how THC exposure initiates a damaging molecular cascade in the blood vessels. It’s not a benign drug.”
While this isn't great, the same research found that the inflammation, and hardening of arteries, can be blocked by genistein – a small molecule found in soy and fava beans.
“As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, users need to be aware that it could have cardiovascular side effects,” Joseph Wu, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, and the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute said.
“But genistein works quite well to mitigate marijuana-induced damage of the endothelial vessels without blocking the effects marijuana has on the central nervous system, and it could be a way for medical marijuana users to protect themselves from a cardiovascular standpoint.”