For years studies have found marijuana use to increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Now a marijuana lollipop has been linked to a man’s heart attack.
Treating his arthritis and insomnia, an 70-year old man licked a marijuana lollipop and within a half hour experienced crushing chest pain. The lollipop contained 90 mcg of THC, which is multiple times more potent than an average joint, according to Fox News.
They report he experienced hallucinations and anxiety which led to a spike in his heart rate and blood pressure thereby stressing the heart. Fortunately he survived.
The lollipop was not intended to be a single use edible but many find it unsanitary to lick a few times and save for later.
Many studies have linked marijuana use to heart attacks, heart failure and stroke.
In 2017, Dr. Aditi Kalla and colleagues from Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia analyzed 20 million health records of patients who were hospitalized in 2009 and 2010 and found those who used marijuana (1.5% of the patients studied) were at high risk of coronary artery disease, sudden cardiac death, heart failure and stroke.
What’s even more striking is the patients were younger, aged 18-55. Risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, alcohol use and smoking were already taken into account.
One theory for the link between heart disease/stroke and marijuana use is that cannabis may affect the cardiac muscle cell’s ability to contract, affecting the pumping mechanism of the heart, thereby leading to heart failure. Another theory is marijuana, like cigarette smoking, may be increasing risk of clots. Below is a report on a study linking marijuana use to Transient Ventricular Regional Ballooning (TVRB). This can also lead to heart failure. Another theory suggests cannabis causes a release of stress hormones, such as cortisol.
In 2016 study out of St. Luke’s University Hospital Network 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.
History of Lollipops
For centuries civilizations had found ways to satisfy our sweet tooth. Ancient Egyptians would mix nuts, fruit and herbs into a ball that could be skewered with a stick. Putting candy on a stick was common as it allowed a sticky sugary or carmelized treat to be eaten easily.
However the modern style lollipop we believe was invented by George Smith of New Haven, CT in 1908.
The name “Lollipop” was trademarked in 1931 after he reportedly named the candy after a popular race horse, “Lolly Pop.”
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.