Doctor’s Warning: Edible Marijuana Can Cause Heart Attack


Today as medical and recreational marijuana becomes legal with speed at more and more places, experts worry there is no enough science on the risks and benefits of the use of marijuana, especially for patients with heart disease.

Recently a new case was reported in which  doctors described that  heart attack to a man was caused due to eating  lollipop laced with high levels of TCH, which is marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. This patient’s story may serve as a warning that cannabis is not as caring as some would like to think, this what the doctors pointed out in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

According to report a 70-year-old Canadian man, who had preexisting heart disease, suffered a heart attack half an hour after consuming most of a lollipop that contained 90 mg of TCH. The man had hoped it would help with arthritis pain and sleep. The dose in the lollipop was far greater than what people typically inhale with a single marijuana joint (7 mg), the researchers specified.

Canary in Coal Mine

Dr. Rob Stevenson, a cardiologist at the New Brunswick Heart Center in St. John, New Brunswick, who is also coauthor of this study said that “With access to marijuana legal now in Canada, it’s going to be accessible to a larger proportion of the population and it’s more likely that some of them will have heart disease. This could be the canary in the coal mine.”

The reported man already had been diagnosed with atherosclerosis and had bypass surgery, but he was taking medications to treat the condition, and his disease was “stable” at the time he consumed the edible cannabis, said lead study author Dr. Alex Saunders, chief resident of the internal medicine program at the St. John’s site for Dalhousie University. “After his bypass surgery he had no repeats of chest pain other than this one,” Saunders said.

Fearful Hallucinations

According to detail investigations the man had smoked marijuana in his youth and had fond memories of it, Saunders said. But once the effects of the high-dose THC in the lollipop started to hit, the man’s blood pressure and heart rate quickly shot up. “He described fearful hallucinations,” Saunders said “He was very afraid he was going to die.”

By the time family members got to him, “he was not only having hallucinations, but also intense chest pain,” Saunders said, adding that the terror the man experienced may have been too much for his heart.

Once at the hospital, doctors confirmed that he’d had a heart attack. The man survived his heart attack, but tires more quickly than before with exercise.

Legal Marijuana and Heart Patients

Saunders fears that with marijuana now legal in Canada, increasing numbers of people with heart disease will be using it and some of them will be at risk for heart attacks. “When I was in my rheumatology rotation, over half of my patients were asking if marijuana would help with the aches and pains that don not get better with traditional medicine,” she said.

Cannabis Increases Heart Rate

Saunders said that while many would have avoided cannabis before, “now that it’s legal they don’t feel as bad.” “One of the most reliable acute effects of the THC in cannabis is that it increases heart rate,” said Ryan Vandrey, who wasn’t involved in the case report. “And it’s dose dependent. Even at modest doses you can get increases in heart rate of 20 to 30 beats per minutes. And it can go higher. If someone with cardiovascular risk factors experiences a short-term bump in heart rate that would be a concern.”


Vandrey, a psychiatry researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, was especially disturbed by the high dose of THC in the lollipop. “Part of my frustration with products like this is that nobody is going to take just a couple of licks and then put it away,” he said. “There should be no circumstance where you get a product and you’re not supposed to consume the whole thing and it’s not clear when you’re supposed to stop.”  In an editorial accompanying the case report, Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco, outlines the different mechanisms by which THC can affect the heart and cautions doctors to keep these in mind when deciding whether and how to use cannabis to treat patients with heart disease.



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