Recent analysis of previous research points to a need for more in-depth study of the effects of cannabis on heart health.
The long-running battle over cannabis and its subsequent impact on our health rages on. For every research paper showing positive impacts, one of equal value seems to contradict those findings. It can, in most cases, be a minefield. There is, however, one thing that all these studies do have in common, a thirst to truly understand the impact cannabis has on our bodies, be that for better or for worse.
Usually, we would discuss the latest research paper in an effort to understand the details and methodology used to achieve these findings. On this occasion, we are presented with something slightly different. Rather than a new outcome or breakthrough, several researchers analysed previous studies to ascertain their validity. The results may surprise you.
CANNABIS AND HEART HEALTH: WHAT DOES PREVIOUS RESEARCH TELL US?
Back in August 2017, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published a paper reviewing a link between cannabis use and increased mortality rates from cardiovascular emergencies. With it came a fairly shocking conclusion, “marijuana use may increase the risk for hypertension mortality”, a statement that is bound to cause some alarm.
Hypertension is a chronic illness causing an increase in blood pressure. Affecting one third of the American population, it’s attributed with being the leading cause of premature death throughout the world. Left untreated, it can cause kidney failure, heart disease, or heart attacks. The good news, before any panic sets in, is that is can be treated. It is clear to see that even “IF” cannabis is a contributor to this serious condition, it doesn’t mean there is a direct cause-effect relationship.
The key word here is “IF”. A popular phrase, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” is often used by people when discussing the authenticity of statistics. In this case, there is no denying the numbers. Based on the research they conducted, marijuana users were 3.42 times more likely to die from hypertension. The flaws from this study start to show themselves, however, when you look into the details of the test. The sample size used, generalisations made, and the integrity of the findings provided all start to cast a shadow.
CONCLUSIONS OF NEW STUDY
It would appear that we are not the only ones to question the integrity of the conclusions made. Researchers from California, Pennsylvania, and New York undertook a review, analyzing previous papers. Their sole purpose was to establish the integrity of the conclusions made and recommended corrective action if required.
Their focus identified three major flaws in the original research: “Poor quality data, inadequate assessment of marijuana exposure and minimal exposure in the populations studied, and variation in the study design”.
One of the single biggest oversights was the generalisation that any test subject deemed a “marijuana user” was based on a single yes or no question as to whether they had ever used the drug in their lifetime. This means there was no differentiation between a daily cannabis user and someone who smoked a joint only once at a party. The sample itself only took into consideration 1,213 participants, all of whom were 20 or above. There was no control factor put in place for anyone with pre-existing heart conditions.
Ultimately, the researchers came to the outcome that the original study presented “evidence examining the effects of marijuana on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes, including stroke and myocardial infarction, that was insufficient”. Before many of us raise a flag for the positive use of cannabis, insufficient doesn’t mean cannabis is actually beneficial. Insufficient points us to the need for more specific, targeted research with a measurable control group. This will enable us to truly understand the impact of cannabis and more importantly, specific cannabinoids on our heart and other vital organs.
WHAT DOES FUTURE RESEARCH LOOK LIKE?
With the future now looking uncertain, where do we turn to understand the impact of cannabis on our bodies? The stance taken by these researchers marks a significant shift in the view and approach of cannabis in general. The fact that they were willing to reconsider previous research topics and question their validity shows a distinct thirst to ascertain the real impact of cannabis. With that thirst comes a more positive environment surrounding cannabis study and discussion.
Historically, tests often focussed specifically on one cannabinoid, THC. It was not until recently that research started to broaden, bringing to light the potential of CBD in a number of settings. Cannabis is a complex organism made up of dozens of cannabinoids, each interacting with our endocannabinoid system in different ways. A targeted research approach would allow us to pinpoint specific cannabinoids and other plant constituents, revealing their cause-effect relationship with our bodies in greater detail.
As legalization and decriminalisation of cannabis continues to spread, it can only straighten the case for understanding the in-depth nature of this complex plant.