Review: Marijuana use linked to heart problems

Image obtained from Wikipedia

I wanted to release this review this morning as I found the CNN article and publication in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) each extremely disturbing. Here is a link to the original article: http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/3/2/e000638.full?sid=a7d9834b-0755-446d-b5f7-8a1cef51e92a

Here is a link to the CNN article publishing this as “Science”: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/23/marijuana-use-linked-to-heart-problems/?hpt=hp_t3

You need to be mindful that this study was funded by French agencies that document and fight drug use.

Despite the litany of issues that the authors themselves clearly state, the JAHA editors allows these authors to comfortably posit that cannabis use is related to heart disease. In so doing, JAHA provides a platform for these authors to mislead the general public and hurt their overall admirable goal of decreasing deaths from cardiovascular disease and strokes.

The authors of the publication themselves state “some cases were not exhaustively informed, and events were too few assess whether the cardiovascular events were actually due to the cannabis use rather than some other risk factors using statistical modeling” (the poor grammar is their own doing). This literally means that the results are not statistically significant and that no correlation can be determined from this study between cardiovascular events and cannabis use.  It really does not get any clearer than that. And yet, the CNN article title states that there is a link when the authors themselves state that there is no demonstrated correlation.

The study is the result of aggregation of data from across 13 regional centers to find 35 cases of mostly men around the age of 34 who had cardiovascular events with little to no information on them except cannabis use. For example, in 46% of cases, there was no systematic information about the cardiac or vascular history of the patients. For 31% there was no information on the body mass index (BMI). This is vital information to determining the cause of each event. This means that a person could have been morbidly obese and smoked a few joints and they are blaming cannabis for this person’s poor health. This means that the patients could have had a family history of cardiac disease or congenital cardiac problems and we are blaming cannabis use for the cardiovascular event. Being from such different areas of the country, makes the 35 cases so heterogeneous that we don’t know what the role of lifestyle or dietary habits might play. Who knows, perhaps 20 came from one region and the others from 12 others?

Only 37 % of the cases had toxicological analysis completed. In those cases, while cannabis may have been the only drug positive, this gives no indication on the extent or time period of use. The authors rely primarily on self-reporting to fill the gap. I did try to I look for Table S1 which is supposed to have a breakdown of the information on the 35 cases on the JAHA website. However, the link is broken on their website which is more disheartening: http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/3/2/e000638/suppl/DC1

As far as my scientific eye can deduce, this is just political propaganda to scare the masses into the notion that cannabis use is unsafe. Never mind all the real data that demonstrates the increase morbidly and mortality associated with alcohol use. Instead, we give voice to those with a bias to demonize cannabis use. Needless to say, I find that extremely disturbing and hope that you do too.

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