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Medical cannabis linked to potential heart risk?

A recent study discovered a heightened risk of new-onset heart arrhythmia associated with the use of prescribed medical cannabis for treating chronic pain, in comparison to those who did not use it, according to researchers in Denmark.

Medical cannabis is legal in the UK on prescription for certain conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

While the recreational use of cannabis has previously been linked to heart-related issues, the potential side effects of medicinal cannabis have been relatively underexplored, as noted by the Danish research team. The study analysed data from 5,391 Danish patients who were prescribed medical cannabis for managing chronic pain. Researchers, led by a team from Copenhagen University Hospital, conducted a comparison with a group of 26,941 patients experiencing chronic pain who did not receive medical cannabis.

The findings revealed that individuals who received medical cannabis had a 0.8% absolute risk of being diagnosed with arrhythmia within 180 days, in contrast to those who did not receive medical cannabis. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, disclosed that the risk associated with medical cannabis prescription was slightly over twice that of patients who were not prescribed medical cannabis. However, the variance in risk diminished when researchers extended their analysis to encompass the entire first year of treatment.

Notably, the study identified the most significant risk disparities in patients with cancer or cardiometabolic disease.

Since commonly used pain treatments, such as NSAIDs, anti-epileptics, and opioids, have also been linked to elevated risk of arrhythmia, clinical trials would be needed to further define the risks and benefits

To find out more about medical cannabis, download our Cannabis Choices Booklet.