German Scientists Claim Cannabis Caused Two Deaths

By Shawn Dwyer 02/27/14

The deaths included one man who had a serious heart condition, and another who had a history with cocaine and amphetamines.

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According to researchers in Germany, cannabis likely contributed to the deaths of two individuals who had underlying medical conditions. The findings are significant because up until now cannabis has not be associated with any acute physical problems or even death.

"To our knowledge, these are the first cases of suspected fatal cannabis intoxications where full post-mortem investigations (...) were carried out," the researchers said. The study was conducted at university hospitals in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, and was published online in the journal Forensic Science International.

The deaths were two of 15 that were examined by Dr. Benno Hartung, one of the study’s authors, and his fellow researchers. The other 13 were found to have been caused by other factors, but two seemingly healthy young men, aged 23 and 28, died unexpectedly while smoking pot. One man had a serious undetected heart condition and the other had a history with alcohol, amphetamines, and cocaine. "We assume that these are very rare, isolated cases," Hartung told the Associated Press.

Dr. David Nutt, chairman of Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, said that the research was an "exceptionally complete collection of evidence in support of their theory that, unusually, cannabis was the trigger for these two tragedies."

"People with vulnerable hearts should be informed of this risk with cannabis," Nutt said.

By contrast, around 88,000 deaths each year are attributed to excessive alcohol use, making booze the third-highest lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. Cigarettes contribute more than 480,000 deaths per year – or one out of every five deaths – making tobacco use the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.