Two deaths in Germany were linked directly to smoking cannabis which triggered cardiovascular complications in the young men (both in their 20s). The researchers go on to explain that cardiotoxic effects have been noted with marijuana use and thus urge caution to user who might have a heart condition. “We simply cannot, any longer, adhere to the old mentality that ‘marijuana does not kill,” Lemos, the chief forensic toxicologist for the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office, told Live Science. “We are now seeing evidence from my office and elsewhere that it just might.”
Marijuana Use Linked to Two Deaths
Originally published: August 5, 2014
Although marijuana may have a reputation as a relatively harmless drug, a new case report links it to the deaths of two young men in Germany.
Toxicological examinations concluded that the men were under the influence of cannabis before they died, and traces of THC — the main active ingredient in marijuana — were found in the men’s blood and brain tissue, the researchers wrote in the report.
In both cases, the deaths were related to cardiovascular complications. In one of the deaths, a 23-year-old man without a history of health problems suddenly collapsed while using public transportation, and died after 40 minutes of unsuccessful resuscitation efforts, according to the case report based on postmortem investigations. The man had a small amount of marijuana in his pockets when he was found, according to the researchers at the Institute of Legal Medicine, University Hospital Duesseldorf in Germany, who reported the case.
In the second case described in the report, a 28-year-old man was found dead at home by his girlfriend. An ashtray, rolling paper and a sealable plastic bag containing remnants of marijuana were found next to the body. The man had occasionally used cannabis, the researchers wrote. He had also abused alcohol and drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine until about two years before his death, they wrote. [5 Bad Habits You Should Still Quit]
“After exclusion of other causes of death, we assume that the young men died from cardiovascular complications evoked by smoking cannabis,” the researchers wrote.
“We assume the deaths of these two young men occurred due to arrhythmias evoked by smoking cannabis,” but this assumption does not rule out that the men were predisposed to cardiovascular risks, they wrote.
Nikolas P. Lemos, the chief forensic toxicologist for the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office, said there have been confirmed cases in which marijuana has had harmful effects on the heart.
“The potential cardiotoxicity of cannabis has been reported in peer-reviewed abstracts as well as scientific proceedings before, including by my team,” Lemos said.
“This case report adds two more cases from Germany, but since late last year, we have known and reported on this drug’s potential cardiotoxic effects in some parts of the general population,” he said.
The researchers in Germany who reported the deaths declined an interview request from Live Science, citing an overwhelming media response to the paper and “some quite unpleasant reactions from individuals.”