If you’ve got an irregular heart beat, you might want to think twice before lighting a joint. Marijuana could pose a threat to United States patients with heart rhythm disorders, according to new research presented by EHRA 2021 — an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
“People should be aware of this devastating outcome and be careful when using cannabis if they have a concomitant heart problem,” Dr. Sittinun Thangjui, the study’s author, said.
His study assessed 2.4 million hospitalized cannabis users using the National Inpatient Sample, a set of databases that cover 97% of the US population. Around 7% of those study participants had some kind of arrhythmia (Atrial fibrillation, abnormally slow heart rate, abnormally fast heart rate, etc). These patients also tended to be older, averaging 50 years old compared to 38 years for the marijuana users without a heart rhythm disorder.
The researchers behind the study controlled for variables including age, sex, race, diabetes, heart failure, obesity and hospital location. They then compared the two groups of patients.
Patients with an arrhythmia remained in the hospital for 5.7 days compared to those without who stayed in the hospital for 5.1 days. Worse yet, the research showed those with an arrhythmia were 4.5 times more likely to die in the hospital than patients with regular heart beats.
The doctors behind the study welcome more research. Still, they caution patients with arrhythmia to think carefully before using marijuana.
“Our study highlights that heart rhythm disorders may be a warning sign for an increased risk of death in people who use cannabis. More studies are needed to confirm our results,” Dr. Thangjui stated. “In the meantime, it seems sensible to screen these patients for arrhythmias if they present to hospital so that those with a heart rhythm problem can be closely monitored.”