Don't get paranoid, but a recent study has claimed that those who use marijuana are three times more likely to die from hypertension, a fancy word for high blood pressure. As an avid user myself, I immediately clicked on the headlines out of fear, but quickly grew skeptical of the conclusions published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The study, co-led by Barbara Yankey, a PhD student at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, reported that marijuana users have a 3.42 higher risk of dying from complications related to high blood pressure, with a 1.04 times greater risk each year. The method included a follow-up survey on participants ages 20 and older, who answered questions about marijuana use in the 2005 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Before we dive into why stoners around don't need to freak over this news, I will say that I am not a doctor and there is a lacking number of studies about the effects of marijuana use in general. Though there isn't strong scientific evidence out there to support my claim ahead, I've been smoking weed every day for years, and I strongly disagree with the study's results (plus, I have fantastic blood pressure). Not only were there several flaws in the way the study was conducted, but my instinct told me that that's just not the way weed works. Here are four problems I've identified in Yankey's study.
A sample of 1,213 people (ages 20 and above) isn't strong enough to make such a case. Not only is that too small to be representative of the population of marijuana users, but the study's duration was a brief period from 2005 to 2006.
When I first saw "marijuana user," I assumed that researchers were referring to those who use or consume marijuana regularly. But the study identified any participant who's ever tried weed in their life as a marijuana user. To measure how long each person has been a "user" was calculated by subtracting their first reported cannabis experience from their current age, which may result in highly inaccurate durations.
Let's say you tried weed for the first time when you were 14 and haven't touched it since. If you're 25 now, the study would've put you down as an 11-year user. See the problem? The study reported that participants averaged at 11.5 years of consumption, when they had really only smoked marijuana once.
It was a retrospective follow-up on an existing survey by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The 1,213 participants of that survey were then asked in 2005 to 2006 if they had ever used marijuana. The results were then compared to the mortality data from the US National Center For Health Statistics to identify any associations with marijuana use and cardiovascular diseases. The study was unable to find any links between cannabis and death from heart disease or stroke.
According to WedMD, smoking weed can double your heart rate for up to three hours, which is why a heart attack shortly after consuming THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid) in any form isn't impossible. However, those who build up a tolerance to the effects - which can be developed over a few days to weeks - have actually shown to enjoy lowered blood pressure and heart rate within a short onset. In fact, WedMD also states that lower is one of the effects of marijuana use, and warns those with low BP about using it.
Think about your first experience with cannabis. It probably wasn't the most amazing one. You were consuming something entirely foreign at the time, probably resulting in paranoia, hyper-awareness, etc. Your body will naturally react to such a new feeling. But after a few times when you know the drill, you're able to enjoy the benefits of THC, including relaxation and pain relief.
I am not saying that there is zero risk to marijuana consumption. Smoking regularly will inevitably affect your respiratory system to some degree. In addition, THC hits your bloodstream almost immediately, accessing every part of your body, which may vary in result by age, sex, ethnicity, and lifestyle.
But at the same time, there's more positive information available about the medicinal benefits of marijuana than not. It's a matter of eliminating the stigma associated with cannabis use and educating those on the many, many ways weed and wellness go hand in hand. Does this study raise enough concern for you to change your current routine? I think it's safe to puff, puff, pass on this one - but definitely continue to stay current on the curriculum.