Cannabis, a much debated and controversial plant, has been the subject of numerous studies on its effects on various aspects of health.
One of the aspects that has attracted the most attention is its effect on blood pressure. However, the relationship between cannabis and blood pressure remains a subject of ongoing research, with preliminary results often contradictory and dilemmas.
Endocannabinoid system and cardiovascular activity
To understand the interaction between cannabis and blood pressure, it is necessary to examine the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is present in all vertebrates and plays a crucial role in regulating vital functions such as sleep, appetite, and pain. The ECS is modulated and activated by cannabinoids in the marijuana plant and endocannabinoids produced in our bodies.
Research suggests that the ECS plays an important role in cardiovascular regulation. A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2018 found that the endocannabinoid system is hyperactive in arterial, pulmonary, and portal hypertension. Endocannabinoids appear capable of both dilating and constricting blood vessels, leading to increases and decreases in blood pressure. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether the relationship between ECS and blood pressure is detrimental or protective.
The role of CBD
CBD (one of the most popular cannabinoids) is known for its non-psychoactive properties and its great analgesic effects. Several important studies confirm its efficacy in combating hypertension.
Research on cannabis and blood pressure
A 2008 study suggests that acute marijuana use causes an increase in heart rate, but does not significantly affect blood pressure. In addition, chronic cannabis use is capable of causing a long-lasting decrease in blood pressure and heart rate.
In 2016, another study found that marijuana use was associated with an increase in systolic (but not diastolic) blood pressure. Furthermore, no correlation was observed between chronic cannabis use and blood pressure. A 2017 review identified limited evidence linking cannabis use to an increased risk of ischemic stroke.
In contrast, a recent study published in Nature: Scientific Reports in 2023 suggests that marijuana use is associated with lower blood pressure levels. This research is notable for its large sample size of more than 91,000 individuals.
Conversely, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, adults under the age of 45 who used cannabis in the 30 days prior to the study experienced nearly twice as many heart attacks compared to non-users.
Both palpitations and sudden drops in blood pressure are common symptoms associated with cannabis use. This may be attributed, in part, to the inherent biphasic response to cannabis.
In simpler terms, marijuana is capable of producing opposite effects depending on factors such as the dose, the individual using it, and the context in which it is used. For example, it can either relieve or induce anxiety.