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Medical marijuana raises patients’ risk of developing heart disorder

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — According to a new study, patients given marijuana to treat chronic pain have a significant risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.

Researchers in Denmark looked at 1.6 million people diagnosed with chronic pain between 2018 and 2021. An estimated 5,000 patients reported taking at least one type of medical cannabis to manage pain associated with cancer, arthritis, and neurological diseases, among others conditions. After six months, researchers compared their risk of developing cardiovascular complications with patients who did report using marijuana for pain. 

Findings showed users were at a 74% increased risk of developing a heart arrhythmia compared to non-users regardless of what type of pain they were experiencing or the type of cannabis prescribed. However, there was no significant difference in risk of heart failure or coronary heart syndrome failure. 

“Since medical cannabis is a relatively new drug for a large market of patients with chronic pain, it is important to investigate and report serious side effects,” lead study author, Dr. Nina Nouhravesh said in a news release. “This study indicates that there may be a previously unreported risk of arrhythmias following medical cannabis use.” 

She goes on to say the study is a reminder to both patients and physicians that they should have as much information as possible when weighing the pros and cons of any treatment.

The research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022.