Marijuana is risky for people taking common heart medications
More than 2 million Americans with heart conditions report that they have used marijuana, but many questions remain about the drug’s effects on the heart, according to a review published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
What is known, however, is that the drug can interact with common heart medications, including statins and blood thinners, potentially putting patients at risk, the review said.
Using marijuana while on a statin or a blood thinner can change how these drugs work in the body, said lead author Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan, a cardiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
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That’s because the same liver enzymes that break down statins or blood thinners also break down the compounds in marijuana, he said. Using them simultaneously with marijuana can change the effectiveness or the potency of the medications.
For example, marijuana can increase the levels of the blood thinner warfarin in the body, which can lead to excessive bleeding, according to the review. One case report published last year found that people using marijuana while on warfarin may need to reduce their dosage by as much as 30 percent. With statins, pot can boost the potency, which could lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure.
If people who are on heart-related medications do choose to use marijuana, it’s important that they tell their doctor and their pharmacist, so the medication dosages can be adjusted if needed.
“The first step is having an open discussion with clinicians, because it does influence some parts of their care,” Vaduganathan said. And certain heart health patients should avoid pot entirely.
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Based on the available evidence, the highest risk patients — such as people who recently had a heart attack or were hospitalized for a heart problem — should be counseled against using marijuana, or advised to limit its use, he said.
People not taking heart medications are also advised to pay attention to how pot affects the heartbeat.
“Always pay close attention to the way marijuana affects the heartbeat.” said Dr. Sergio Fazio, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Palpitations —when the heart races, pounds or skips a beat — are a common side effect of marijuana and could be dangerous for someone with an existing condition.
“If you sometimes feel your heart pounding or beating out of whack, these are signals that you should not ingest marijuana,” Fazio, who was not involved with the new review, said.
Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and preventive cardiology at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, said that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, may cause platelets in the blood to clump and form clots, increasing a person’s risk for stroke or heart attack.
Smoke, vape or eat?
How users ingest marijuana also plays a role in how risky the drug may be for people with heart problems.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which surveys people’s health activities, found that nearly 80 percent of adult marijuana users reported smoking the drug.
“Inhalation and vaping of anything that isn’t meant to be in the lungs, even water, is a bad idea,” Fazio said.
Though marijuana affects the entire cardiovascular system regardless of how it’s ingested, Fazio said that edibles are the safest route, as smoking poses many of the same risks as inhaling tobacco. And vaping, as demonstrated by the ongoing outbreak of serious illnesses, introduces a bevy of risks.
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Still, edibles also come with risk. It’s very easy to ingest a much higher dose of marijuana when consuming it as an edible. People who opt for edibles should understand exactly how much is in each serving and should not take more if they don’t feel its effects right away.
“The problem is knowing the purity and dose, and this is extremely variable among different products regardless of the delivery system,” Lavie told NBC News in an email. “A low dose of pure THC is safer than a high dose of THC that has many bad contaminants.”
“I’m not sure people are always aware of what exactly they are getting,” he added.
Synthetic forms of marijuana, including K2, can also pose severe health problems, Lavie said. In 2018, contaminated synthetic pot in Illinois caused bleeding disorders that were so severe some doctors nearly mistook patients’ symptoms for Ebola.
Synthetic pot can also be up to 100 times as potent as the THC in the cannabis plant, making these versions even more dangerous for people taking statins or blood thinners.
It’s possible that marijuana isn’t always bad for the heart, however. Using medical marijuana as prescribed could lead to less stress, for example.
“Anytime someone says that they were able to get eight hours of peaceful sleep because they used a little bit of marijuana, their cardiovascular health will likely be better off with the use of marijuana,” Fazio said. “When you move to the purely recreational use, that’s where the risks associated with heart problems potentially outweigh the benefits.”Marijuana can interact with people's heart medications, like statins and blood thinners, potentially putting them at risk for heart health problems.
Using Medical Marijuana with Blood Thinners
Home / Blog / Using Medical Marijuana with Blood Thinners
Using Medical Marijuana with Blood Thinners
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 12/15/2017 in Ailments and Conditions
Updated on August 26, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is now legal in many states throughout the U.S. This is excellent news for patients struggling with several debilitating disorders that medical marijuana can effectively treat. However, this does raise more questions about the effect it might have on certain conditions, especially those that require patients to take other medications, as well.
One of these medications is blood thinners. Since the anticoagulant effect of blood thinners can be increased with cannabis, many medical professionals refuse to recommend cannabis for patients who are on this type of medication. What they don’t realize is that cannabis naturally acts as a blood thinner, so it could be a suitable replacement for anticoagulant meds.
The lack of knowledge surrounding the use of medical marijuana leads some doctors to advise patients using blood thinners for their clotting deficiency or other cardiac medical conditions not to use cannabis oils. The medical world does not yet fully understand the benefits of medical marijuana.
This shortage of information stems from the fact that the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I, illegal substance, so research about possible complications that can arise from drug interactions is insufficient. However, as marijuana’s stigma as a “stoner drug” is lifted, more people are understanding its true potential.
Medical Marijuana’s Healthful Benefits
The reason cannabis is such a useful treatment is its ability to naturally interact with an incredible number of bodily functions. It’s well known that medical marijuana helps patients struggling with nausea, glaucoma, chronic pain and seizures, but why is that? How can it do all that and potentially serve as a replacement blood thinner?
The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance in many of our biological functions. Your body is continually striving to achieve homeostasis, where all systems work together to keep you operating at your full potential. To help this balance, the ECS has receptors found in cells in every major bodily system.
Cannabis binds to these receptors. So, if you’re experiencing an adverse side effect due to a medical condition, marijuana can help restore balance. This includes bringing analgesic relief if a patient is in pain, or calming over-excited electrical activity in the brain if they’re experiencing a seizure. It also affects our blood cells on the cellular level, which is why it could be an effective alternative to blood thinners.
Blood Thinning Properties of Cannabis
Your body needs to have blood flowing freely throughout every part. This is one of its most important processes, and we don’t even think about it — until something goes wrong. Blood clots prevent blood from flowing as it should. They occur when specific blood cells, called platelets, build up inside an artery or vein.
Blood clots are an essential bodily function that stops you from bleeding out when you have a wound, but they can be quite dangerous when they form inappropriately. That’s when doctors prescribe blood thinners. Blood thinners don’t actually change the consistency of the blood, they simply inhibit how the blood clots. There are two types of blood thinners:
- Antiplatelet: These prevent platelets from clumping together and forming a clot.
- Anticoagulant: Creates a chemical reaction that extends how long it takes to develop a clot.
Cannabis has anticoagulant properties. It directly affects the platelets in the blood, specifically the anticoagulant properties of platelets. There aren’t many studies on this component of medical marijuana, so researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes this. But the reason it increases the anticoagulant effect of blood thinners seems to be related to the fact that marijuana inhibits the drug’s metabolism and displaces it from its protein binding sites.
Switching to Cannabis as a Blood Thinner Alternative
More studies on cannabis are needed for the medical world to support the using of medical marijuana rather than traditional blood thinning meds. However, if a patient is on blood thinners and would like to switch to medical marijuana treatments, it should be done under the watchful eye of a physician.
It’s advisable that the oil blend should be high THC and high CBD (2 ounces of THC to 1 ounce of CBD). Patients should avoid the use of oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements without coordinating with your physician. The oils may increase the effects of blood thinners.
Cannabis treatments are very good for many illnesses and conditions and have properties that react on almost any part of the body. Unfortunately, because of the years of withholding medicinal treatments derived from the plant from the general population, skepticism has built up — not just from medical doctors, but also from patients. For this reason, many still prefer the use of lab fabricated medicines which have many adverse side effects and are far more harmful to the body.
Contact a Marijuana Doctor to Pursue Cannabis Treatment Options
The full potential of medical marijuana can’t be understood until more scientific studies are allowed to be performed. Because of this lack of knowledge, patients fear to take the plunge and contact their physician about cannabis treatment options.
If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, make an appointment to speak to a medical professional near you, or contact a medical marijuana dispensary to talk to a budtender. They can address your individual concerns and point you in the right direction.
Our advice shouldn’t replace that of a qualified professional. If you’re on blood thinners and would like to use cannabis, we still advise doing so under the supervision of a medical doctor who knows the benefits of medical marijuana to avoid complications.Is it okay for you to use Medical Cannabis and Blood Thinners at the same time? Find out more today! ]]>