The widespread legalization of marijuana across various states in the U.S has raised questions about its safety and potential risks, especially in terms of heart health, cognitive function, and addiction. While 33 states have legalized medical marijuana and 11 for recreational use, experts highlight that legalization does not equate to safety. According to Alvin Powell, a Harvard Staff Writer, despite the broad public experience with marijuana, the medical community still grapples with understanding its full impact.
For those who choose to use marijuana, Harvard Health recommends practicing safe consumption. It is advised to avoid smoking, as it can inflame the lungs, and instead consider alternatives like under-the-tongue tinctures, edibles, topical products, or dry herb vaporizers. If smoking is the preferred method, it is crucial not to hold the smoke in the lungs for more than a second or two to prevent irritation. Additionally, users should refrain from driving for at least four hours after consumption.
Marijuana smoke contains various toxins, irritants, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, which are known contributors to heart disease and cancer. The psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, can increase heart rate and blood pressure, posing risks for individuals with heart disease. Research indicates that the risk of a heart attack is several times higher in the hour after smoking marijuana. Other studies have linked marijuana use to atrial fibrillation and other heart-related issues.
In terms of cognitive function, long-term marijuana use has been associated with memory impairment, as THC affects brain regions vital for memory formation. A decline in IQ and deficits in learning and processing speed have been observed in long-term cannabis users, with greater frequency of use correlating to more significant impairment. These findings suggest a potential causative link between cannabis use and cognitive decline.
However, the public opinion on marijuana use is shifting, with a CBS News/YouGov survey showing that two-thirds of Americans support legalizing recreational marijuana use. Neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd emphasizes that despite its increasing legality, cannabis should not be considered entirely safe. Users should be aware of its potential risks, especially to heart health and cognitive function, and practice safe consumption habits.
For more information on marijuana’s safe use and addiction, visit this article. To learn more about marijuana and heart health, check out this article. For details on the cognitive effects of long-term cannabis use, refer to this article. Additionally, you can explore common questions about medical cannabis through this article.