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Hospitalized Pot Users with Arrhythmias at Higher Risk of Death

Marijuana or cannabis is the most commonly used psychoactive substance worldwide. However, there is limited knowledge about the safety of the drug in people with cardiac arrhythmias (i.e., Atrial Fibrillation and abnormally slow or fast heart rate).

Pot Users with Arrhythmias More Likely to Die in Hospital

An observational study of 2.4 million cannabis users hospitalized from 2016-2018 was conducted using the National Inpatient Sample database, which covers 97% of the US population.

Medicinal Marijuana and A-Fib

Marijuana and A-Fib

Examined was the burden of arrhythmias in drug users admitted to hospital. The study also compared length of hospital stay and deaths in hospital between those with and without an arrhythmia.

The study found that cannabis users with an arrhythmia were 4.5 times more likely to die while in hospital than those without an arrhythmia, according to Dr. Sittinum Thangjui of Basset Healthcare Network, Cooperstown, NY.

Patients with an arrhythmia accounted for 7.6% (187,825) of the 2,457,544 adult cannabis users. Atrial fibrillation was the most common arrhythmia, followed by abnormally slow heart rate and abnormally fast heart rate.

“People should …be careful when using cannabis if they have a concomitant heart problem. -Dr. Sittinum Thangjui

The arrhythmia group were older: the average age was 50.5 years compared to 38.3 years for those without an arrhythmia. Those with arrhythmias also had more co-existing health conditions.

“People should be aware of this devastating outcome and be careful when using cannabis if they have a concomitant heart problem” says Dr. Sittinum Thangjui. He didn’t indicate or speculate how or why cannabis use caused or was associated more hospital deaths in patients with arrhythmias.

This research was presented at the EHRA 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Editor’s Comments:

Editor's Comments about Cecelia's A-Fib storyAtrial Fibrillation patents who use cannabis be aware. Especially if you are older (50+) and have concomitant health problems such as diabetes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease or obesity.

However, common sense would indicate that these older arrhythmia patients would be more likely to die in the hospital, whether or not they used cannabis. (Only a brief abstract is currently available and not the complete study.)

Resources for this article

• Abstract title: Burden of arrhythmia in hospitalized patients with cannabis use related disorders: analysis of 2016-2018 national inpatient sample.

• People with heart rhythm disorders warned over cannabis use. European Society of Cardiology Press Release, April 23, 2021.

• European Society of Cardiology 2021 Online Congress.

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