Younger people with cannabis use disorder are at an increased risk of heart rhythm problems and face the risk of stroke twice as much as non-smokers, a new study has found. As per the new presentation at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, a regular weed using youngster has a 47 to 52 per cent greater risk of being hospitalized for an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.
An arrhythmia occurs when the electrical impulses that make the heartbeat in time do not work properly, resulting in the heartbeat becoming too fast or too slow or irregular and leading to a stroke or heart failure.
Scientists in the presentation noted the connection between marijuana and heart problems by examining data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample -- the largest publicly available all-payer inpatient healthcare database in the US -- to conclude that 2.6 percent of patients hospitalized for arrhythmia were regular cannabis users.
Cannabis users between the age of 15 and 24 years had 1.28 times higher odds of having to go to the hospital for this condition, and 25 to 34-year-old were 1.52 times more likely to be hospitalized for arrhythmia.
"The effect of cannabis last between 15 minutes to about three hours of consumption, and linked to a rapid heartbeat at lower doses, and too-slow heartbeat at higher doses," said Dr Rikinkumar S. Patel, a resident physician in the department of psychiatry at the Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman.
The study based on data from 43,000 adults between the age of 18 and 44 suggested the risk of cannabis use linked to arrhythmia in young people was a major concern, and physicians must examine the use of cannabis in youngsters hospitalized with the condition.
Researchers noted that youngsters using cannabis more than 10 days a month were nearly 2.5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than those who did not use the drug. Stroke -- the second leading cause of death and disability globally, with one person passing away from the condition every six seconds -- occurs when one of the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked or burst.
The researchers in a statement also said the risk was even higher for those who frequently used cannabis and smoked cigarettes or e-cigarettes. They are thrice as likely to have a stroke than people who did not smoke or use e-cigarettes.
The study did not look into what caused the increased risk, said co-author Tarang Parekh from George Mason University, but hoped that doctors would take the information into account when talking to patients. The findings are consistent with numerous other studies that link cannabis with various heart and respiratory symptoms, including bronchitis, heart failure, an attack, and myocardial infarction. Earlier research suggested that cannabinoids raised a person's resting heart rate and dilated their blood vessels, leading to difficulty for heart to pump the blood.
Many other studies have however claimed that marijuana has potential therapeutic benefits and has paved the way to full legalization of cannabis in some countries. Dr Ranjit Suri, an electrophysiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's in New York City and who was not part of the research, said the findings were "thought-provoking at a time when there is a great push to legalize marijuana, and the herb and its metabolites are being promoted as a cure-all for a myriad of medical conditions and ailments".
He, however, added the study was observational and did not establish a direct cause-and-effect link between marijuana use and these conditions, pushing for further research in the subject to establish how cannabis use leads to arrhythmia.