A 70-year-old Canadian man suffered a nearly fatal heart attack after trying a marijuana lollipop for the first time.
In the case report, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, researchers said the man, who lives in St John, New Brunswick, has osteoarthritis and wanted to see if the lollipop could ease his joint pain and help him sleep
Half an hour after trying the edible, the man started having ‘fearful hallucinations’ and ‘crushing chest pain’, according to the report.
He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered he had suffered a heart attack.
The man told medical staff he had eaten almost a whole cannabis lollipop, which has nearly 13 times as much THC – the psychoactive component that gets users ‘high’ – as a regular joint.
The 70-year-old man, from St John, New Brunswick, Canada, started having ‘fearful hallucinations’ and ‘crushing chest pain’ after eating the marijuana lollipop. Doctors at the hospital discovered he had a heart attack (file image)
There have been several reports of people who claim marijuana was responsible for inducing strokes and heart attacks.
In Colorado, an 11-month-old baby boy allegedly died from myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, after overdosing on marijuana.
According to the report, before arriving at the hospital, the man called a family member and said he thought he was dying.
He arrived at the St John Regional Hospital drenched in sweat. Doctors performed blood work and a cardiogram, which indicated the man had a heart attack.
More specifically, he had suffered a myocardial ischemia, which is when a buildup of plaque in the coronary artery prevents blood from reaching the heart partially or completely.
The man had a history of heart problems, in particular hardened arteries and a triple bypass surgery, but said he hadn’t experienced any problems in two years.
Lead author Dr Alexandra Saunders, of Dalhousie University’s Internal Medicine Program in New Brunswick, did an internet search of cannabis dispensaries and discovered just how much THC the lollipop had, reported the National Post.
Marijuana’s two main components are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which are both derived from the cannabis plant.
THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.
It interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety.
The lollipop the man had eaten contained 90mg of THC compared to a regular joint that contains just 7mg.
The authors of the report said they believe the high amount of THC caused his hallucinations and anxiety and overexcited his sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight-or-flight response.
This led to his heartbeat and blood pressure rapidly rising and resulted in a heart attack.
‘After the psychotropic effects of the drug wore off, and his hallucinations ended, his chest pain stopped,’ the authors wrote.
They said the patient has not tried marijuana lollipops since and has been advised from being careful if he does so in the future.
As recreational cannabis becomes legalized in more places – as it has in nine US states and Canada – the authors say more research is needed about how the drug affects heart conditions.
‘Marijuana can be a useful tool for many patients, especially for pain and nausea relief,’ said Dr Saunders in a statement.
‘At the same time, like all other medications, it does carry risk and side effects.’
This is not the first time that marijuana has been named the cause of cardiovascular problems.
In 2014 a 21-year-old man from Wales reportedly suffered a heart attack after smoking pot, reported Live Science.
However, a review published in February 2018 determined there was insufficient evidence to conclude that marijuana raises the risk of heart problems or stroke.
In an editorial that accompanied the case report, Dr Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said that cannabis can cause heart attacks in three ways.
The first is by inhaling marijuana smoke, the second is from THC’s direct effect on the cardiovascular system and the third is from THC’s indirect effect, causing hallucinations or anxiety that leads to a heart attack.
‘The legalization of cannabis has considerable public support but also raises public health concerns,’ wrote Dr Benowitz.
‘Some users may benefit from the social and medical effects, but others will be at risk for adverse health outcomes.
‘For better or worse, providing advice and care to such patients who are using cannabis is now necessary for the provision of optimal medical care to these patients.’