Cannabis and cardiotoxicity


Cannabis is the most commonly consumed illicit drug. It is estimated that 4% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 64 smoked marijuana in 2003. Despite the drug’s extreme popularity, reports of cannabis-related stroke and myocardial infarction are so rare as to still be reportable. Cannabinoids, the active compounds contained in marijuana, interact with cardiovascular centers in the brain, but also exert direct effects on vascular tone. Recent animal and in vitro studies have yielded conflicting results, some suggesting minimal effect, others suggesting that cannabinoids may be potent myocardial depressants. The observation that cardiotoxicity has never been reported in cancer patients taking dronabinol, the synthetic form of THC, tends to suggest that animal studies may have overstated the cardiovascular risk, which is probably comparable to that of smoking cigarettes.

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Correspondence to Steven B. Karch.

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Karch, S.B. Cannabis and cardiotoxicity. Forens Sci Med Pathol 2, 13–18 (2006).

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Key words

  • THC
  • cannabinoids
  • coronary artery disease
  • sudden cardiac death