Smoking marijuana is quite common nowadays, especially among young adults. The psychoactive and sedative effects weed produces, which occur as a result of the interaction between the cannabinoids in weed and the cannabinoid receptors that are part of the endocannabinoid system in the body, are the biggest reason for marijuana’s recreational use.
However, these effects aren’t the only reason why people use cannabis. The marijuana plant is also used by medical marijuana users for treating various conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, appetite loss, nausea, and many others.
But can marijuana lower blood pressure? This is something that many cannabis users want to know, which is why this article will focus on giving you all the answers related to marijuana and blood pressure. We’ll discuss whether marijuana can raise or lower blood pressure, as well as whether it’s safe to use if you have high blood pressure.
The 411 on High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
As the heart beats, blood travels through the circulatory system, and blood pressure is the force that drives the blood through the veins. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition when the blood pressure is higher than normal, which in medicine is often referred to as the silent killer. On the other specter is hypotension, which is lower-than-normal blood pressure.
So, in mathematical terms, normal blood pressure would be about 120/80 mm Hg. A pressure of 90/60 mm Hg or lower is defined as hypotension, while hypertension is generally defined as stage one (blood pressure ranging from 130/80 – 139/89 mm Hg) and stage 2 (140/90 mm Hg or higher).
High blood pressure can develop as a result of various factors, like lowered or non-existent physical activity, obesity, unhealthy eating, tobacco consumption, stress, and alcohol use. Hypertension can increase a person’s risk factors for heart attack, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and stroke, which is why maintaining a healthy blood pressure is essential.
The Effects of Cannabis on Blood Pressure
Before we discuss whether cannabis lowers or increases blood pressure, we need to go over the ingredients in cannabis. The cannabis plant is made up of several chemical ingredients out of which the most important ones are the cannabinoids (cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol) and terpenes. The former can affect blood pressure levels, depending on the dose, how cannabis is consumed, the cannabis user’s health, and their previous experience with cannabis, while the latter can’t.
That being said, CBD and THC don’t affect blood pressure the same way. The former decreases anxiety and relaxes the blood vessels, which may lead to a lower blood pressure, while the latter can both increase and decrease blood pressure. Let’s explain.
Can Marijuana Lower Blood Pressure?
Not all cannabinoids have the same effects on users, meaning, some may increase the blood pressure, while some may stabilize it and even lower it, but we still don’t have a definitive answer on how cannabis affects blood pressure.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, may be the cannabinoid that increases blood pressure. However, cannabidiol, or CBD, that aids in the relaxation of the body, may decrease it. Researchers are still getting to the bottom of this discussion which is why a lot of studies have conflicting results. In the following paragraphs, we’ll go over a few studies which discuss the effects of weed on blood pressure.
A new study from 2021, published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, showed that older adults suffering from hypertension had an increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure during a 24 hour period after the use of medical cannabis. The lowest point was achieved 3 hours after the users consumed weed either as an extract or by smoking it. Scientists suspect that this increase may also be a result of the pain relieving properties that cannabis has, though further research needs to be done.
A 2016 study, published in the Journal of Hypertension, linked recent marijuana use to higher systolic blood pressure levels. Furthermore, the study also claimed that daily cannabis use for a month resulted in a 3 point increase in systolic blood pressure in individuals who have never used cannabis in the past.
As a result of the increased legalization of cannabis, more pre-clinical, clinical, and prospective population-based research is needed in order to have a definitive answer to this question.
The Cardiovascular Effects of Cannabis: Can Cannabis Cause a Heart Attack?
Another topic of interest is whether cannabis use may cause side effects such as heart attacks.
According to a 2020 study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2 million Americans who have heart disease have used or are currently using weed, which may be troublesome given that THC might in fact increase blood pressure.
A 2019 research letter done by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, concluded that people who use cannabis have a higher risk of heart attack compared to people who don’t use it. The participants in the study had other risk factors, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and other drug use, but researchers concluded that weed was a high risk factor nonetheless, even without taking the other factors into account. After the 3-year period, the research suggested that 1.37% of the cannabis users who were part of the study had a heart attack, but only 0.54% of the non-users.
Even though more research is needed to understand how cannabis use may raise the risk of heart attack, one reason may be that under the influence of marijuana, THC strains may cause the sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones which may increase the heart rate and blood pressure of cannabis users.
The same can’t be said for CBD which, according to recent studies, doesn’t have the same risks as THC. According to a 2010 study by the Journal of American College in Cardiology, CBD may help with cardiovascular disorders. This cannabinoid reduces inflammation, which may preserve the health of blood vessels and veins, but more research is needed to know whether CBD can become a powerful ally in the battle against heart disease.
Consuming Weed and Taking Blood Pressure Medication
A lot of cannabis users wonder whether weed consumption combined with taking blood pressure medication can cause an adverse reaction. The short answer is yes. Cannabis consumption, and especially smoking high-THC strains, is best avoided by people with heart disease and hypertension. This is because cannabis smoke contains carbon monoxide which, when inhaled, results in less oxygen being delivered to the tissues in the body, such as the heart, which may lead to health problems.
If users do decide to consume cannabis strains rich in THC, a better option may be trying out other cannabis products such as edibles (weed brownies, cakes, and dishes made with cannabutter or cannabis oil), sublingual tinctures, and even consuming CBD-rich strains or making a cup of CBD tea or coffee. This way, at least they wouldn’t inhale carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins that come from cannabis smoke.
Can You Consume Medical Marijuana Safely?
A lot of people all over the US use medical marijuana daily, and there are even FDA-approved drugs that contain THC. The approval of these drugs is due to the fact that medical marijuana can relieve pain, help with symptoms of glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, MS, nausea, vomiting, reduce stress and anxiety, and help with some other conditions as well.
That being said, research still hasn’t given enough evidence to support the use of marijuana to treat medical conditions related to blood pressure and heart health. If some people think about integrating cannabis into their healthcare plan, they should discuss this with their healthcare provider and also discuss the medication they’re currently taking to minimize potential side effects due to combining weed and medication.
Final Thoughts on Whether Marijuana Can Lower High Blood Pressure
As we’ve discussed above, the endocannabinoid system is crucial for the regulation of the body and maintaining homeostasis (balance), and the cannabinoids in weed may aid the EC in its function. This has only led scientists to start researching whether this system may be “manipulated” in order to treat conditions such as hypertension.
As we’ve mentioned above, there’s a lot of conflicting pieces of evidence when it comes to how THC affects blood pressure and whether it decreases or increases it. CBD, on the other hand, may provide more good than harm – though it’s far from being considered a medical treatment for high blood pressure at the moment. While a lot of research suggests CBD may aid in the relaxation of the body vessels, therefore reducing the blood pressure, only further research and time will tell whether this can reduce blood pressure levels long-term.
However, nobody knows what future research holds for the use of cannabis as a treatment option for hypertension and other cardiovascular issues. The way we use medical marijuana as a treatment option today was only wishful thinking in the past, so we’ll just have to wait and see.