Though the long-term health effects of marijuana use are still contested among many health professionals, the George State study yielded one clear conclusion: regular marijuana users are reportedly three times more likely to die by hypertension - or high blood pressure - than non-marijuana users.
"Support for liberal marijuana use is partly due to claims that it is beneficial and possibly not harmful to health", said Barbara Yankey, who co-led the research at the school of public health at Georgia State University in the United States.
In the absence of longitudinal data on marijuana use, the researchers designed a retrospective follow-up study of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) participants aged 20 years and above.
Participants were asked whether they had ever used marijuana.
Marijuana users are three times more likely to die from hypertension according to a study published August 9 in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
Yankey said were limitations in the way marijuana use was assessed - including that researchers could not be sure whether people had used the drug continuously since they first tried it.
This data was merged with mortality statistics from the US National Center for Health Statistics. THC acts on the endocannabinoid system, which regulates your heart function, and can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
However, the researchers found no association between marijuana use and death from either heart disease or stroke.
"We found higher estimated cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use than cigarette smoking", she said". In light of the debate over whether or not to legalize marijuana, Okosun explained, "the same way we have been very prudent to look into cigarette smoking, we should also be very prudent about ascertaining whether or not patients use marijuana". With the impending increase in recreational marijuana use it is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks. The average duration of use was 11.5 years.
Interestingly, marijuana users had a higher risk of dying from hypertension. It didn't track how much marijuana they actually used.
The culprit of this increased risk, study authors say, is tetrahydrocannabinol, an active component in weed. Also, in order to make informed decisions, it is vital for individuals as well as the policy makers to understand the impact of marijuana on health.
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