A new study, published in the journal JACC Cardiovascular Imaging, has revealed that marijuana use may damage the structure of the heart. This comes just as when marijuana was about to get legalised in several places for being deemed harmless.
A team of researchers from the United Kingdom analysed the heart scans of about 3,407 people, who never had any heart disease, with an average age of 62 years collected as part of the UK Biobank study.
Early signs of impaired heart function
Out of 3,407 people, 47 people were regular marijuana users, while 105 had regularly used cannabis five or more years before. The rest of them had never used marijuana.
The researchers found that people who used marijuana regularly had an enlarged left ventricle along with early signs of impaired heart function. Dr Mohammed Khanji, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Queen Mary, said, "We believe this is the first study to systematically report changes in heart structure and function associated with recreational cannabis using cardiac MRI, which is a very sensitive imaging tool and the current reference standard for assessing cardiac chambers."
"The World Health Organization has warned about the potentially harmful health effects of non-medical cannabis use and called for more research specifically around the cardiac impact," the lead author of the study added.
Limitations of the study
However, the researchers said that there are several limitations to this study. They stated 96 percent of the research participants were white and they themselves had reported about their cannabis habits. In addition, the total number of marijuana users was quite small and thus the study could detect only a few subtle changes.
But, the researchers believe that this study will play an important role for further studies involving the drug, especially considering that marijuana may soon be legalized in several places.
Dr Khanji said, "We urgently need systematic research to identify the long-term implications of regular consumption of cannabis on the heart and blood vessels. This would allow health professionals and policymakers to improve advice to patients and the wider public."