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Marijuana users face higher risk of death from high blood pressure

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As the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana continue to spread across the US, so too have usage rates for the drug, especially in younger demographics. But Yankey, a student researcher, lumps everyone together - whether you have quit years ago or just tried it once.

Some research suggests cannabis could reduce the size of tumors.

Lead author Barbara Yankey from Georgia State University, said: 'It is important to establish whether any health benefits outweigh the potential health, social and economic risks'.

The study also tracked the causes of death for people who admitted to ever using marijuana.

Though researchers surveyed participants to see who did or didn't use the drug, the subjects were not tested throughout the course of study for confirmation. They found death rates from high blood pressure were associated with people who reported using pot. "Only participants eligible for mortality follow-up were included". Nor were there differences in in risks of mortality stemming from heart- or cerebrovascular-disease. "And you wouldn't understand in this particular setting why the effect of marijuana was more than cigarettes when we know clearly that cigarettes have an effect".

A few limitations, such as the uncertainty in whether participants used marijuana continuously since their first trial, were pointed out by Ms. Yankey.

Among a total of 1,213 participants, 34% used neither cannabis nor cigarettes, 21% used only cannabis, 20% used cannabis and cigarettes, 16% used cannabis and were past smokers, 5% were past smokers, and 4% only smoked cigarettes but not cannabis. "If marijuana use is implicated in cardiovascular diseases and deaths, then it rests on the health community and policy makers to protect the public".

Interestingly, marijuana users had a higher risk of dying from hypertension.

Compared to non-users, marijuana users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension and a 1.04 greater risk for each year of use. "You would think that the marijuana if it was working on the vascular system to cause some damage, it should cause stroke, it should cause heart disease; it shouldn't [only] cause hypertension", he commented. Additionally, the risk was shown to increase by four percent for every year of recreational marijuana usage.

'This indicates that marijuana use may carry even heavier consequences on the cardiovascular system than that already established for cigarette smoking'.

"It could be these elevations in blood pressure are a manifestation of marijuana being laced with other things that are more cardio-stimulating", Lawrence said.

'Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and heart attacks after marijuana use'. "However, there is little research on the impact of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality".

"We found higher estimated cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use than cigarette smoking", Yankey added.

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