From potential health ‘benefits’ to the risk of addiction, the true impact of marijuana is a contentious issue in the United States today.
Eight U.S. states have now legalized weed to some degree or another, and the number is rising every year. Oregon, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Nevada and Alaska are all counted among them. This leaves us to ask: is marijuana really all that safe?
With recent research showing that marijuana is connected to the risk of death from hypertension, answering this question becomes a bit more complicated.
Taking a Second Look at the Risk of Marijuana Use
With marijuana becoming legalized throughout the country, it is important to continue talking through the potential drawbacks of the drug.
“Steps are being taken towards legislation and decriminalization of marijuana in the United States. However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality.”
~ Barbara A. Yankey, author of the academic study
A recent development in research in this area may provide more insight into this topic. In short, the academic article claims that those who smoke weed face three times the risk of death from hypertension (high blood pressure, that is).
So the question becomes, is marijuana really connected to a big risk of death from hypertension? And is smoking pot worth this risk?
The Risks of Marijuana Use
Of course, there are a wide range of risks associated with smoking weed and using pot. The risk of marijuana use is not limited to just high blood pressure – although that is an insightful development in terms of analyzing the risk of smoking weed.
Most people may not take these health risks seriously, but they are important to consider. The safety of marijuana and the associated hypertension risk (among others) impact everything from public policy to personal recreation.
So what are the various risks of using pot, besides the connection between marijuana and hypertension?
Some of the most common psychological, physical and emotional effects of smoking pot include:
- Breathing Problems: Just like any kind of smoke, the drug impacts the smoker’s lungs. These breathing problems can include a cough, phlegm, and lung infections.
- Heart Rate: Marijuana has been shown to raise the heart rate for as much as three hours after smoking. This may increase the risk of a heart attack, especially for older people who already have heart problems.
- Psychological Effects: Some people using pot may experience paranoia, hallucinations, and heavier symptoms of schizophrenia if they are already suffering from that mental illness.
- Brain Development: If someone begins smoking weed as an adolescent or teenager, the drug may affect their brain development. Over time, this impacts everything from critical thinking to memory.
- Problems with Child Development: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, children who have been exposed to marijuana in the womb are more likely to have problems with memory and attention span later on in life.
On top of these potential long-term detrimental effects, using marijuana has many short-term effects that are not exactly conducive to healthy living. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these short-term effects include changes in mood, impaired memory, impaired body movement, hallucinations, and sometimes even delusions or psychosis.
The Risks of High Blood Pressure – Hypertension Risk
On top of these short-term and long-term effects, more recent research has shown a specific detrimental effect of marijuana use: the connection between marijuana and hypertension.
“Marijuana raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of heart attack. Older people and those with heart problems may be at higher risk.”
~ The National Institute on Drug Abuse
This is unsurprising, given the impact that the drug has on heart functioning. Like we mentioned above, smoking weed dramatically increases the body’s heart rate. On top of this, other research has shown that even secondhand smoke from weed does the same amount of damage on the body’s blood vessels and heart as secondhand tobacco smoke.
These effects of marijuana on the heart make it relatively unsurprising that there is a connection between marijuana and hypertension risk. A study published this year makes this connection even more clear.
Academic Study Insight: The Connection Between Marijuana and Hypertension
“Our results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from marijuana use. This is not surprising since marijuana is known to have a number of effects on the cardiovascular system. Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand. Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and heart attacks after marijuana use.”
~ Barbara A. Yankey, author of the academic study published in the European Journal for Preventive Cardiology
Study in Depth: Marijuana Associated with 3 Times the Risk of Death from Hypertension
The academic study showing the hypertension risk and increased blood pressure from marijuana use was published in August of this year.
The authors recognized that there is a general lack of scientific research on the long-term health effects of marijuana – but they also recognized that marijuana has been shown to have at least some negative impact on blood pressure and heart rate. They used this as the basis for their academic inquiry.
“After controlling for many health and behavioral variables, including a prior diagnosis of high blood pressure, they found that compared with nonusers, marijuana users had more than three times the risk of death from hypertension-related causes.”
~ Nicholas Bakalar, writing for The New York Times
In short, the study found that smoking pot may be a direct cause of high blood pressure – which in turn leads to a higher risk of death from hypertension. But how did the scholars come to this conclusion?
Here are some highlights from the academic study on marijuana and hypertension risk in adult populations:
- The researchers analyzed 332 deaths, taken from 1,213 participants in another health study.
- 57 percent of the full population were marijuana users, and had used marijuana for an average of 12 years.
- The longer that a participant had used marijuana, the more likely that they also had hypertension.
- Overall, the researchers found that those who smoked pot faced three times the risk of developing hypertension over the course of their life.
These four specific highlights show one thing: marijuana use may not be as safe as everyone imagines it to be. Of course, determining its safety and facing the risk is entirely up to you.
The Bottom Line: Weed and High Blood Pressure Are Linked
There is no way around it. This academic study has shown not only that marijuana has an impact on a person’s high blood pressure, but even more crucially that smoking weed directly leads to an increased risk of death from hypertension.
This scientific finding clearly has an impact on how the public should approach the legalization and casual use of marijuana. If smoking pot has an impact on blood pressure and hypertension risk, what is the final result?
“Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health. It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health risks. If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public.”
~ Barbara Yankey, author of the academic article at Science Direct
The author’s perspective on the safety of a liberal marijuana use policy is clear. They have found that weed is harmful to health, and want the public to ask whether or not the ‘health benefits’ outweigh the hypertension risk – or even the possibility of death from hypertension.
But what does this mean for you?
Ask Yourself: Is Smoking Pot Worth Hypertension Risk?
Just like using any drug, or choosing to get help for drug addiction, this comes down to you. Hopefully this scientific finding has sparked something, and will encourage you to ask questions and look up more information for yourself about the health risks of marijuana.
Above else, if you find that you are unable to stop using marijuana, you should seek out some professional help. This is marijuana addiction, and is an entirely different kind of danger that pot poses. Thankfully, you can address any kind of addiction through one-on-one therapy, group support, and developing coping strategies.
If you still have questions about the risks of smoking marijuana, or about the link between marijuana and hypertension, feel free to contact us today.