Why Does Weed Raise Your Heart Rate? The Cardiac Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana is commonly associated with an increased heart rate, a side effect that is generally not alarming.
It is typical for cannabis users without any heart disease history to feel a temporary and uncomfortable increase in heart rate for a brief period, usually lasting five to ten minutes.
The primary culprit behind this sensation is believed to be THC, the active compound in cannabis.
However, individual reactions to THC can vary significantly due to factors like personal metabolism and usage habits.
Table of Contents
It’s well-established that marijuana can impact cardiovascular health, particularly in those with pre-existing heart conditions.
For instance, individuals with heart diseases may experience chest pain more quickly under stress if they have used marijuana.
This is attributed to the complex effects of cannabinoids on the cardiovascular system.
These effects include an increase in resting heart rate, dilation of blood vessels, and a more forceful heart pumping action. Studies have shown that the risk of a heart attack may increase several times in the hour following marijuana use compared to other times.
For people with minimal cardiovascular risks, these effects might not be significant. However, for those with a history of heart disease, it’s a serious concern.
There is also some evidence linking marijuana use to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation and ischemic stroke shortly after use. Furthermore, long-term studies indicate that marijuana smoking might increase the mortality rate in heart attack survivors over time.
Marijuana’s benefits and risks
The relationship between marijuana and cardiovascular health, particularly heart attacks and strokes, is primarily derived from observations in individuals who smoked it.
This makes it challenging to isolate the specific effects of cannabinoids on the cardiovascular system from the risks associated with the smoke itself.
Cannabis smoke can cause airway inflammation, wheezing, and chest tightness, making it especially harmful for individuals with lung diseases.
Additionally, those with mental health disorders or a susceptibility to addiction should weigh the potential risks carefully before using marijuana.
Additionally, using marijuana can result in a failed drug test.
Studies about marijuana and heart rate
Effects of marijuana on the task-elicited response
The impact of marijuana on heart rate has been a subject of study, as illustrated in a research paper titled “Effects of marijuana on the task-elicited response.”
This study involved ten healthy male marijuana users who were given either a placebo or an active marijuana cigarette with 1.8% Δ9-THC over five sessions.
Participants either performed a task or rested post-smoking, while their heart rate was continuously monitored.
The study revealed that smoking marijuana alone led to an 18 beats per minute increase in heart rate compared to the placebo. More strikingly, when combined with a mental task, marijuana increased heart rate by 29 beats per minute.
This indicates that marijuana smoking, especially in conjunction with mentally demanding activities, significantly boosts cardiovascular activity.
The researchers concluded that marijuana might intensify cardiovascular responses to stress or challenging situations.
They suggested that the drug’s stimulation of heart rate, both at rest and during tasks, could have serious implications for some users. However, further research is required to fully understand these potential health impacts.
The Effects of Combinations of Intranasal Cocaine, Smoked Marijuana, and Task Performance on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
This study focused on examining the combined effects of intranasal cocaine, smoked marijuana, and task performance on heart rate and blood pressure.
Eight adult male volunteers aged between 25 and 36, all with histories of cocaine and marijuana use, participated in the study.
The research design involved sessions where participants smoked marijuana cigarettes with varying THC levels, and some sessions also included the inhalation of cocaine hydrochloride.
Heart rate and blood pressure were monitored continuously throughout these sessions.
The study found that smoking marijuana cigarettes with higher THC concentrations led to greater increases in heart rate, with the maximum average increase reaching 27 beats per minute (bpm) for the high THC concentration (2.7-2.9%).
These effects were compared to the impact of cocaine alone, which increased heart rate by up to 15 bpm, and a serial acquisition task alone, which resulted in a heart rate increase of around 5 bpm.
Additionally, the study investigated the combined effects of marijuana, cocaine, and task performance. It was observed that engaging in the learning task while under the influence of both marijuana and cocaine resulted in an even higher increase in heart rate, approximately 37 bpm.
In conclusion, the study indicated that self-administered smoked marijuana in a controlled setting increased heart rate in a dose-dependent manner, with the most significant increases observed at higher doses and under conditions involving combined drug use and task performance demands.
Cardiovascular System Effects of Marijuana
The paper focuses on how marijuana and its active component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affect the human cardiovascular system. Key findings from controlled experiments include:
- Significant increases in heart rate were observed in participants who either smoked marijuana cigarettes or received THC administration. The increase typically ranged from 20 to 100%, beginning within 10 minutes of smoking and lasting for approximately 2 to 3 hours.
- These studies were carried out with healthy volunteers, often young males, in a laboratory environment. During and after the administration of smoked marijuana or intravenous THC, various parameters like heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output were meticulously monitored.
- The experiments were designed to control factors such as dosage, route of administration, and monitoring methods to specifically assess the acute cardiovascular effects of marijuana and THC. In some instances, participants were pre-treated with drugs like propranolol and atropine to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the cardiovascular changes.
- The paper notes that typical recreational marijuana use varies considerably from these controlled settings, mainly due to the differing doses and mix of cannabinoids inhaled during real-world consumption.
In conclusion, the controlled administration of marijuana or THC in these studies led to a quick and marked increase in heart rate, persisting for several hours. This underscores marijuana’s significant impact on cardiovascular function. The paper also recognizes the discrepancies between experimental conditions and real-life recreational marijuana usage.
It’s reassuring to know that the rapid heartbeat often experienced by medical cannabis users, known as cannabis-related tachycardia, is generally not a serious issue.
While it may be uncomfortable, it’s not typically dangerous for most people, except for those with a history of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, most medical cannabis users need not be overly concerned about this side effect.
Patients who are worried about the increased heart rate have several options. It’s advisable to consult with a Prescribing Medical Practitioner (PMP) to discuss products with varying levels of THC.
Another alternative is to consider medications that blend lower doses of THC with moderate levels of CBD.
This consideration stems from emerging evidence that CBD might mitigate some of THC’s less comfortable side effects.
The potential for CBD to offset THC’s effects could be due to its interaction with cannabinoid receptors, though this is still a hypothesis under investigation.
Opting for products containing both THC and CBD could be beneficial in reducing the sensation of a racing heart.
Don’t let it scare you
The main takeaway here is that experiencing a racing heart while using medical cannabis is a common and normal response to THC.
Being aware of this beforehand can help prevent any undue alarm. It’s important not to let this side effect deter you from using the plant for its medicinal benefits.
Always communicate any concerns with your Qualified Medical Practitioner (QMP) or PMP.
There is a wide range of administration methods, strains, and medical products available, and with professional guidance, you can likely find a medication that alleviates your symptoms without causing significant discomfort.