Substance Use

Is Smoking Weed Bad for Your Heart?

marijuana buds in a heart shape

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Cardiovascular Effects of Smoking Weed

People may have told you that weed is “natural,” “harmless,” and even a “cure” for certain diseases.

However, did you know that you are several times more likely to have a heart attack within the first hour of smoking weed than nonusers?

This is due to chemicals in the weed sending mixed signals from your brain to your heart. On the one hand, it gives you a sense of relaxation. On the other, your heart rate increases, prompting anxiety. 

As of 2020, more than 49.6 million Americans aged 12 and up reported using weed within the past 12 months. Scientists expect this number to increase as more states legalize weed for personal use.

As you’ll see, the connection between smoking weed and cardiovascular events can’t be rectified by simply changing how you ingest it.

If you’re currently smoking weed, call Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439 to get help quitting. We provide both inpatient and outpatient options for those with substance use disorder and co-occurring conditions.

What Is Weed?

Weed (marijuana) is a mixture of dried flowers and leaves from the cannabis plant. Weed is also known on the streets as pot, hash, grass, Mary Jane, bud, and ganja. Although weed is an herb, it contains psychoactive chemicals that can alter your behavior soon after ingesting it. This psychoactive chemical is called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

There are several ways to ingest weed, but many people choose to smoke it.

What Happens Once You Ingest Weed?

Soon after smoking weed, THC reaches the lungs, bloodstream, and brain. Once THC stimulates cannabinoid receptors, users might experience merriment, increased hunger, and drowsiness. However, some people experience more serious effects after smoking weed, which include:

  • Sedation
  • Lung irritation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Coughing attack
  • Increased blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

People who use weed regularly may experience life-threatening complications, such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma attacks, and suppressed immune system. In some serious cases, people will also experience cardiovascular complications.

Can Marijuana Use Affect The Heart Positively?

You might have heard claims that smoking weed, consuming edibles, or using CBD oil can lower your blood pressure or even reverse heart disease — and you’re not the only one.

In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewed more than 2 million tweets mentioning weed; and found up to 31% of them mentioned unfounded health claims relating to weed use.

In December 2020, the Federal Trade Commission began fining companies that made unsupported, non-evidence-based claims about consuming weed products – specifically CBD. These companies claim cannabidiol cures chronic diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure (hypertension). 

To date, no FDA-approved studies support any claim that weed – or its by-products – can cure heart-related issues. However, some studies pinpoint the negative effects of smoking weed on the heart and cardiovascular system.

Negative Effects of Marijuana (Weed) on the Heart

The THC in weed affects the cardiovascular system immediately after use. Once it reaches the bloodstream, it causes your heart to beat faster. This rapid increase in heart rate leads to high blood pressure. Using weed repeatedly can cause unsafe alterations in the heart, leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

Aside from the cannabinoid THC, weed contains nearly 500 additional compounds, including 70 in the same category as THC. Burning weed releases a cocktail of chemicals, including:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Polycyclic hydrocarbons

The effects of long-term exposure to these chemicals are unknown. Limit your exposure to them by enrolling in a drug rehabilitation facility. Zinnia Healing offers evidence-based treatment programs to support you throughout your journey to sobriety. To begin, call us at (855) 430-9439 for your obligation-free consultation. 

Weed Adulterations and Cardiovascular Abnormalities

In addition to the above-listed chemicals, scientists have discovered dangerous additives in weed that result from altering the plant from its natural form.

These chemicals include:

  • Plant fertilizers that contain N-nitrosamines
  • Sulfur
  • Copper sulfate
  • Arsenic (up to 2 grams per 100 grams of marijuana)
  • Insecticides
  • Fungicides
  • Toxins (including aldicarb, carbaryl, Diazinon, malathion, maned, parathion, and zineb)

These chemicals play a negative role in both heart and lung health. However, cardiovascular risks don’t stop here.

Black market weed dealers looking to increase their profits might adulterate weed by adding toxins and other drugs, such as:

  • ParaquatParaquat dichloride is an herbicide the EPA lists as highly toxic to humans. A very small amount can cause cardiac arrest and lead to death.
  • Opium: Opium users, according to a study in the Iranian Journal of Public Health, have a higher susceptibility to coronary artery disease and are more likely to show abnormalities on their ECGs.
  • LSD: LSD elicits extreme fear and paranoia along with hallucinations. You will also experience increased heart rate and blood pressure soon after ingesting it.

Negative Effects of Weed Smoke on the Heart

Though it is difficult for scientists to distinguish heart-altering chemicals naturally present in weed from those in the smoke, the CDC states that some of the same harmful chemicals found in tobacco are in weed. 

In addition, the fungi naturally found in soils can attach themselves to weed, creating adverse health effects. One such fungus – Aspergillus fumigatus – is particularly damaging when inhaled. Smoking weed containing Aspergillus fumigatus can cause vascular erosion and damage cardiovascular tissue. Researchers at the Missouri State Medical Association emphasize a higher likelihood of these negative cardiovascular effects in older or unhealthy individuals.

It is important to note that most research regarding weed’s effect on the heart focused primarily on smoking weed and not using it in other forms. Therefore, researchers cannot conclude that using weed in a non-smoking form is safer on the heart long-term than smoking it.

Smoking weed introduces many toxic chemicals and compounds to the cardiovascular system, including THC. This increases the risk of life-threatening cardiovascular events.

The Connection Between Smoking Weed and Heart Disease

Older people are beginning to use weed due to its alleged pain-relieving effects. Especially those with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. However, this is inaccurate.

Weed does not possess pain-relieving qualities, but the cannabidiol (CBD) found in weed does. Cannabidiol is isolated from weed for medicinal use and does not contain THC. No studies point to a negative consequence in people using CBD for this purpose, even those with heart disease. However, smoking weed with heart disease can prove dangerous.

Stanford Medicine found a link between THC in weed and inflammation in endothelial cells that line blood vessels. They state that frequent marijuana smokers are more likely to have a heart attack before the age of 50, which leads to a higher risk of heart disease, heart failure, and life-threatening heart rhythms (arrhythmias) leading to sudden death.

According to the Journal of Clinical Medicine, weed has been linked to myocardial infarction in relatively healthy young men with no known cardiovascular risk factors. Research also links weed to arrhythmias, Atrial fibrillation, heart palpitations, stress cardiomyopathy, and arteritis. These cases continue to increase, especially in older people with underlying heart conditions – though more research is needed to establish this link.

It is also important to note that while CBD may positively affect heart health, under federal law, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 substance.

Weed’s Long-Term Cardiovascular Effects

Weed use has exploded in popularity due to the legalization of marijuana in several states in recent years.

Due to relaxed laws on marijuana sales and possession, street dealers continue to add undetectable chemicals to weed to make it more addictive than weed sold legally in a dispensary. This has caused an overall safe drug to now be the link to various cardiovascular events.

In conclusion, smoking weed does have some negative effects on the heart. Still, the future prognosis of these effects is unknown due to varying methods of ingestion, numerous adulterations, and a lack of conclusive long-term research. What is known is that weed has an addictive quality, and too much can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The best method to protect your heart is to eat healthily, stay active, and discontinue using unprescribed marijuana.

Are you ready to stop smoking weed?

Quitting on your own can pose a challenge, particularly for those who ingest marijuana smoke on a regular basis. However, you don’t have to go it alone; Zinnia Healing can help.

Our fully accredited marijuana rehab programs can help you detox from weed and discover the reason behind your addiction. Give us a call at (855) 430-9439 to get started.

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