According to a new UCSF study published in the European Heart Journal, substances such as cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine and even marijuana are linked to the most common type of heart arrhythmia — atrial fibrillation, often called AF or AFib.
Scientists examined data from diagnostic codes from hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and medical procedures in California over 10 years (from 2005 to 2015), revealing that cannabis users had a 35% higher chance of developing AF, reported KRON4 News.
“To my knowledge, this is the first study to look at marijuana use as a predictor of future atrial fibrillation risk,” said principal investigator Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS and professor of medicine with UCSF’s Division of Cardiology.
What is AF exactly?
AF is a heart arrhythmia condition when the heart beats too slowly, too fast or in an irregular way, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When a person has AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart (the two atria) is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart (the two ventricles).” This could be a permanent condition or can happen from time to time.
The condition can be serious as it can lead to blood clots in the heart. It also increases the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
More than 150,000 people die annually in the U.S. from AF-related strokes.
In this research, around one million people who had no pre-existing AF but later developed it were identified. Among the patients examined in the database:
132,834 used marijuana
98,271 used methamphetamine
48,700 used cocaine
10,032 used opiates
“Despite exhibiting a weaker association with incident AF than the other substances, cannabis use still exhibited an association of similar or greater magnitude to risk factors like dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease. Furthermore, those with cannabis use exhibited similar relative risk of incident AF as those with traditional tobacco use,” the study authors reported.
It is important to note that the research also confirmed that while cocaine or methamphetamine are known to cause sudden cardiac deaths due to disruptions in orderly electrical signaling and pumping within the heart, the same has not been confirmed for cannabis.
The study concluded that of all the drugs it examined, methamphetamine posed the greatest risk for AF.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.