Consuming cannabis products doesn't have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking it – but are edibles bad for your heart? Dr. Danial Schecter said marijuana can have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular system.
Are edibles bad for your heart?
Consuming cannabis products doesn’t have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking it – but are edibles bad for your heart?
Cannabis, which is derived from the hemp plant, is widely known for its psychoactive and anti-nausea properties. The active ingredient in cannabis that is associated with these effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids, which are chemicals that mimic the structure of THC, can be prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, and appetite loss. 1
A growing number of governments are legalizing the use of medical and recreational cannabis, and in turn, more research is being done on the potential risks, benefits, and medicinal uses of cannabis.
Smoking cannabis versus consuming cannabis edibles
Cannabis is available in a variety of forms; two of these include inhaling cannabis smoke, and consuming edible products or baked goods containing cannabis. Smoking cannabis may be associated with respiratory side effects because inhaling any smoke can be difficult on the lungs. 2 Some research suggests that smoking cannabis may be associated with some adverse cardiovascular effects, although more research is needed to confirm these findings. 3,4,5
Consuming edible cannabis products does not have the same effects on the respiratory system as smoking cannabis; however, there is minimal research on whether edibles can impact the cardiovascular system. This has been indicated as a possibility. For example, one case study of a 70 year old man with coronary artery disease described his myocardial infarction, or heart attack, shortly after consuming a cannabis-infused lollipop. 6
The patient consumed more than three-quarters of a 90-mg marijuana lollipop. The patient described experiencing fearful hallucinations and called a family member to take him to an emergency room. He also reported crushing chest pain, sweating, and shaking. The patient was treated for a heart attack with an anticoagulant, antiplatelet, and aspirin.
Cannabinoids and the cardiovascular system
Cannabinoids, such as THC, cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD), found in the cannabis plant, bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the body. 7 These receptors are found all throughout the body, and as a result, cannabis can have a variety of effects for individuals. More specifically, according to some new case studies and research, cannabinoids including THC may influence the cardiovascular system itself and could potentially be associated with increased blood pressure, heart rate, and an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. 7
Can edibles increase heart rate?
Although the exact effects of edible cannabis are not well-studied compared to inhaled cannabis smoke, some research shows that activation of the endocannabinoid receptors may be associated with increased blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. 8 However, other research shows that activation of certain cannabinoid receptors may be associated with decreased blood pressure and heart rate, and the current evidence is fairly inconclusive. 9 More research is needed to determine whether cannabinoids can increase blood pressure and heart rate as well as determine whether these effects are specific to certain methods of cannabis ingestion.
Are edibles bad for your heart?
Although some evidence suggests that smoking cannabis may be associated with adverse side effects and cardiovascular changes, there is currently no consensus on whether or not cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are bad for the cardiovascular system. More research is needed to determine the potential impacts of cannabis and cannabis edibles on the cardiovascular system.
Expert cautions people with heart problems about using cannabis
Cannabis can have troublesome effects on people with unstable heart conditions, says physician
Dr. Danial Schecter said marijuana can have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular system. (Submitted)
A medical cannabis expert is cautioning people with heart problems about using marijuana.
Dr. Danial Schecter is one of the keynote speakers at a cardiology symposium today in Sydney, N.S.
Schecter is the co-founder of the Cannabinoid Medical Clinic, which has 20 Canabo Medical Clinic locations across Canada, including one in Halifax.
He said although cannabis is generally safe, it does have side-effects, which have been largely overlooked as Canada moves to legalize its recreational use.
“Cannabis activists have almost taken over the conversation around cannabis, and their message is that cannabis is a harmless drug, it’s never killed anyone in the 5,000 years people have been using it.”
Schecter, who also holds a fellowship in hospital medicine and is an active hospitalist at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Ont., suggests cannabis can have troublesome effects on people with unstable heart conditions.
“It can cause what we call tachycardia, which is an increase in your heart rate. It can also cause peripheral vasodilation, which means your veins and your arteries can dilate and drop your blood pressure,” said Schecter.
“And that means that people who are using cannabis with unstable heart diseases, such as unstable angina or at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, should really use cannabis with caution.”
Schecter said people with unstable heart diseases or who are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke should be careful about using cannabis. (Evan Mitsui/CBCNews)
Schecter said like all drugs, cannabis also can produce unwanted side-effects when combined with other medications or alcohol. His presentation is intended to flag potential risks for cardiologists and other medical professionals attending the Sydney event.
Schecter noted that it’s the THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, in cannabis that produces both the high associated with marijuana and the negative side-effects.
“So if people consume CBD [cannabidiol]-only products, or oils, then they don’t get the same cardiovascular effects, or the other unwanted side-effects.”