Did A Cannabis Lollipop Trigger A Man's Heart Attack?

By Kelly Burch 02/13/19

Researchers investigated whether a marijuana edible was responsible for giving an elderly man a heart attack.

man eating a cannabis lollipop,

Canadian researchers are calling for more research into the cardiovascular effects of cannabis after a 70-year-old man reportedly had a heart attack after consuming a lollipop containing a high level of THC. 

According to a paper in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, the man had existing heart conditions. He took the cannabis edible hoping that it would help him sleep better and cope with the pain he experienced from arthritis. Instead, he started experiencing chest pains within half an hour and was found to be having a heart attack. 

Researchers say that this shows the need for more research into the health effects of marijuana, which was recently legalized for recreational use in Canada

“The outcome of this case is important with new marijuana legalization—hopefully with marijuana use no longer criminalized, more research into the cardiovascular side effects will emerge,” they wrote. 

According to Live Science, the man said that he had occasionally smoked marijuana as a teen, but had not used edibles before. The lollipop he consumed contained 90 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which is about 12 times the amount found in a typical joint. 

Although the man had had heart attacks in the past, he hadn’t experienced one in two years, and was on medication for his heart conditions. Researchers said that consuming the edible put a "sudden and unexpected strain” on the man's heart, causing him to have a heart attack.

In addition to chest pain, the man experienced "fearful hallucinations” and anxiety, which can increase heart rate and strain the cardiovascular system even more, researchers wrote.  

Dr. Alexandra Saunders, the lead author of the study, said in a press release that people need to be aware that marijuana can have dangerous side effects, even when it is used in a medical setting. 

"Marijuana can be a useful tool for many patients, especially for pain and nausea relief. At the same time, like all other medications, it does carry risk and side effects. In a recent case, inappropriate dosing and oral consumption of marijuana by an older patient with stable cardiovascular disease resulted in distress that caused a cardiac event and subsequent reduced cardiac function,” Saunders said. 

Dr. Robert S. Stevenson said that the paper shows that doctors need to discuss the risk of cannabis use with their patients.

"Most previous research on marijuana-induced myocardial ischemia focused mostly on younger patients and did not focus on its different formulations and potencies. As a result of widespread marijuana legalization, healthcare providers need to understand and manage cannabis use and its complications in older patients, particularly in those with cardiovascular disease," he said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.