Research on cannabis use and heart health creates more questions than answers for some

Cardiac health expert Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan questions the American Heart Association report drawing a link between recreational marijuana use and ‘an increased risk of heart attacks.’

Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.

TALLAHASSEE — When the American Heart Association (AHA) released a report drawing a link between recreational marijuana use and “an increased risk of heart attacks, heart failure and a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation,” cardiac health expert Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan was intrigued. While the AHA statement may sound alarming, she said the studies it’s based on creates more questions than answers.

“I think it’s important to note that the research that we are doing in cannabis is observational. The safety and efficacy that we really want to dive into, we’re not able to do because of the worldwide legality issues,” said Dr. Manalo-Morgan, who has a doctorate in cell and development biology with a focus in cardio-oncology. “And, of course, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control do address that we’re not able to perform the proper research that can really tell us the true story of how cannabis use, and especially daily cannabis use, is contributing to heart disease.”

She said since 2012, emergency rooms have been seeing more and more cannabis users under the age of 50 suffering from heart attacks. However, she questions whether other causes could be to blame for these health crises. 

“Is it in their genes? Are they overweight? Do they also use alcohol? What other drugs? Was it maybe a result of drug interactions,” she said, adding that street-grade marijuana could be laced with poison or another harmful ingredient like fentanyl.

As an entrepreneur focused on pharmaceutical innovation and research on medical cannabis, Dr. Manalo-Morgan is involved in multiple clinical trials around the globe. She said more scientific studies on cannabis use and heart health need to be done.

“So, there’s a lot of gaps that need to be filled before we can say, yes, for sure, cannabis use is harmful to the heart. I think what we do have is an opportunity to maybe get more funding and open the door for doing more research because we are seeing a correlation of some regard there,” she explained.

Click here to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Dr. Annabelle Manalo-Morgan, a cell and developmental biologist, explaining the impact of cannabis use on your heart health.

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