The American Heart Association (AHA) warned against smoking or vaping cannabis in a new scientific statement released this week.
The statement includes citations from observational studies that linked marijuana to an increased risk of heart attack and other health issues.
Due to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S., there is limited research on the plant, which has been noted in the AHA report. However, based on various existing studies that were reviewed by the group, the AHA said it does not recommend cannabis use “because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.”
The risk increases in people with existing heart disease, with some studies showing marijuana could interfere with prescribed medications as well as “trigger cardiovascular conditions or events, such as heart attacks and strokes” as THC appears to activate the body’s fight-or-flight response.
Hospitalizations for heart attacks have increased in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, according to the AHA. On the other hand, the report said it found no evidence of CBD having a similar impact on the heart. In fact, CBD has been associated with lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate.
Another concern highlighted by the AHA is the fact that it is still unknown whether cannabis could also trigger acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or arrhythmias as the available data is short-term and observational.
Consequently, the AHA emphasized the need for more research into the long term effects of cannabis use.
“We urgently need carefully designed, prospective short- and long-term studies regarding cannabis use and cardiovascular safety as it becomes increasingly available and more widely used. The public needs fact-based, valid scientific information about cannabis’s effect on the heart and blood vessels,” Robert L. Page II, chair of the AHA writing group, said.
Reacting to the AHA’s statement, the National Cannabis Industry Association’s media relations director told MarketWatch the industry is “on the same page” as the AHA regarding the need for more research. Still, she affirmed that decades of prohibition have made it clear that keeping cannabis illegal and underground is “far worse for the consumer and society.”
Finally, the AHA underlined that tobacco smokers appear to be more susceptible to the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Although it remains unclear whether smoking or vaping cannabis could also leave people more vulnerable to the acute symptoms of the coronavirus, it warned against pot use as a majority of weed consumers tend to mix tobacco with marijuana.