Marijuana may be associated with an increase in cardiovascular emergencies, recent research suggests.1 Studies on marijuana have been scarce, owing to the classification as a schedule 1 drug by the Federal Drug Administration. However, with the increase in legalization and recreational use, it has become important to address the lack of scientific information regarding its impact on health. Because of this, more studies are being conducted.

Smoking Marijuana Hypothesized to Cigarette Smoking

The fact that recreational marijuana is commonly smoked, has led to a hypothesis that like cigarette smoking, it is likely associated with increased cardiovascular mortalities. This does assume that the route use is inhalation, which brings with it a lot of inherent toxins, such as resins, tars, and carbon monoxide – regardless of the agent smoked. However, other methods of marijuana use are not parsed out of this data as of yet.

The Study

The study looked at 1213 participants who had responded to questions regarding marijuana use on a 2005 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 34% of participants had never smoked either cigarettes or marijuana, 21% used only marijuana, 22% used both cigarettes and marijuana,16% used marijuana but were also past cigarette smokers, past cigarette/marijuana smokers were 5% and only cigarette smokers were 4%. The average duration of marijuana use was 11 years. These participants were linked to information from a 2011 public-use mortality file from the National Center for Health Statistics (from the CDC). Cigarette smoking, as well as pre-existing cardiovascular conditions were controlled. Age, sex and ethnicity were demographic variables that were included.

Study Findings

The study found a 3 time increase in death from hypertension (which includes hypertensive renal disease as well as primary hypertension), with an increase in risk for each year a person used marijuana. However, no effect on cerebrovascular disease (stroke) or heart disease was found.


  1. Yankey BA, Rothenberg R, Strasser S, Ramsey-white K, Okosun IS. Effect of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality: A study using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey linked mortality file. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2017;:2047487317723212.
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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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