Cannabis use is related with a three-fold risk of death from hypertension, according to research published today.

Steps are being taken in the direction of legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in the United States, and rates of recreational cannabis use may increase substantially as a result. However, there is little research on the impact of cannabis use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality.

Information on cannabis use was fused with mortality data in 2011 from the National Centre for Health Statistics. The researchers estimated the associations of cannabis use, and duration of use, with death from hypertension, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, monitoring for cigarette use and demographic variables including sex, age, and ethnicity. Death from hypertension included numerous causes such as primary hypertension and hypertensive renal disease.

Cannabis users had a higher risk of dying from hypertension. Compared to non-users, cannabis users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension and a 1.04 greater risk for each year of use. There was no relationship between cannabis use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease.

They found that cannabis users had a greater than three-fold risk of death from hypertension and the risk increased with each additional year of use. There were limitations to the way cannabis use was estimated. For example, it cannot be certain that participants used cannabis uninterruptedly since they first tried it.

The results suggest a possible risk of hypertension mortality from cannabis use. This is not surprising since cannabis is known to have a number of effects on the cardiovascular system. Marijuana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen demand. Emergency rooms have reported cases of angina and heart attacks after marijuana use.