A study out of St. Luke’s University Hospital Network has found marijuana to cause stress cardiomyopathy. This is a temporary condition that causes a “ballooning” of a region of the ventricle known as Transient Ventricular Regional Ballooning (TVRB). We know that many drugs can cause cardiomyopathy (affect the heart muscle) such as cocaine and stimulants causing dilated cardiomyopathy, but this is new in that a sedating type of drug such as cannabis/marijuana, can cause similar effects on the heart.
The condition of TVRB can mimic many different heart conditions because it presents with chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness. So many individuals admitted for these symptoms are evaluated for a heart attack, angina, pneumonia, and a variety of other diagnoses.
In this study, the researchers looked at data from 33,000 hospital admissions who had TVRB and saw a link between 210 of these admissions and marijuana use. They are unsure how marijuana affects the heart, but theorize that it could be an increase in cortisol and stress hormones. Although none of the marijuana users in this study died, the TVRB can cause cardiac arrest, heart attack.
More questions need to be answered regarding how much marijuana affects the heart and what long-term marijuana use can do from a cardiac standpoint. But since the drug has become legal in another 5 states, its use will increase and users need to be aware that it is not harmless, especially when it comes to the heart.