Pubdate: Sat, 26 Apr 2014
Source: Marshfield News-Herald, The (WI)
Copyright: 2014 Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers
Author: Marisa Cuellar


MARSHFIELD - Marijuana use could increase heart attack risk, according
to a study with input from local doctors published Wednesday in the
Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Most people think marijuana is safe to use ... even some doctors, but
it was found that it can give you significant health problems," said
Marshfield Clinic cardiologist Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, who wrote the
editorial that accompanied the study.

About 2 percent of marijuana-related health complications reported
between 2006 and 2010 to the French Addictovigilance Network, which
monitors drug abuse, were cardiovascular complications, including
heart attacks and strokes.

Heart attacks were more likely to occur during the first hour after
marijuana use, and the majority of patients were young males with no
cardiovascular risk factors, Rezkalla said.

"What is most serious is, the heart attacks that occur after marijuana
use have higher mortality rates than regular heart attacks," he said.
A four-fold increase in mortality was observed in marijuana users
compared to non-users after heart attack, according to the study.

Rezkalla said heavy marijuana use can produce a condition in the heart
and brain that results in slow blood flow, cardiac arrhythmia and
increased heart attack and stroke risk.

"It's highly likely if you're a current user and stop use, you may
reduce your cardiovascular risk, but we need a good study that shows
that," Rezkalla said.

Gary Storck of the Madison branch of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the study doesn't prove a
causal connection between marijuana use and cardiovascular problems
and shouldn't worry people.

"It's interesting this study is showing up at a time legalization
seems to be winning across the nation," he said.

Storck encouraged lawmakers faced with the decision to legalize
marijuana to weigh this research with studies highlighting the
benefits of medical marijuana, including one that showed delivering a
low dose of cannabinoid after a stroke or heart attack could reduce
the risk of ischemic damage.

"Speaking from my own experience as someone with heart defects because
of Noonan syndrome, I've felt cannabis is a great heart medicine," he

Storck said he had a heart valve replacement, which leaked and began
to narrow, but vaporized cannabis allowed him to continue living a
normal life, including walking up stairs to his third-floor apartment.

"There is medicinal use for marijuana for diseases such as glaucoma,"
Rezkalla said. "Marijuana is for therapeutic benefit. The one thing I
have a problem with is legalizing marijuana for recreational use,
because it's not proven to be safe."

Marisa Cuellar can be reached at 715-384-3131. Find her on Twitter  ---
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