Heavy pot users are nearly two times more likely to have a heart attack after common types of surgeries as those who don't use the drug, a new study shows.
"While cannabis is often purported as being safe or benign, we don't fully understand the health implications of this drug, particularly in heavy users," said study author Dr. Karim Ladha, a clinician-scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
"The results of this study make it clear that we need to pay more attention to cannabis users undergoing surgery," he added in a hospital news release.
The findings were culled from an analysis of the medical records of more 4 million U.S. adults who had one of 11 common elective surgeries including knee or hip replacement, gallbladder removal, cesarean section, hysterectomy and hernia repair between 2006 and 2015.
There was no difference in overall outcomes between patients who had a marijuana use disorder and those who did not, but in addition to heart risks there was evidence that patients with marijuana use disorders may also be at increased risk for stroke, according to the researchers.
They also found that the rate of marijuana addiction or abuse among surgical patients rose significantly over the study period.
The study was published recently in the journal Anesthesiology.
The finding is the first step in determining what is the association between marijuana use disorders and surgical outcomes, according to Ladha, since the study did not prove that heavy pot use directly causes heart risks to rise after surgery.
In future research, Ladha plans to follow surgical patients with marijuana use disorder using a more detailed method of data collection to confirm the association between marijuana use disorder and an increased risk of heart attack.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on heart attack.
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