Background: Cannabis use has increased over the past several years as some countries have
legalized its use for the treatment of certain medical conditions and/or for recreational use. Thus, concerns
have risen about potential adverse health effects. Increasing number of reports have associated
cannabis use with serious cardiovascular (CV) complications. Furthermore, there appears to be a likeness
in the harmful health effects, especially on the CV and respiratory systems, of cannabis smoking
to those of tobacco smoking.
Objective: to review the CV effects of cannabis use and compare them with those of tobacco use.
Methods: Articles were reviewed that were published in English literature reporting on cannabis and
cannabinoid pharmacology and their effects on the CV system and their consequences. Emphasis was
also placed on articles reporting on cannabis use in adolescents, exposure to secondhand smoke, its effect
on exercise and finally its inter-relationship and similarities with tobacco use.
Results: With growing cannabis use, an increasing number of reports have emerged associating marijuana
use with serious and life-threatening CV complications, including acute coronary syndromes, potentially
lethal cardiac arrhythmias and ischemic strokes. There are certain similarities of the deleterious
CV and respiratory effects of cannabis smoking with those of tobacco smoking. Despite the difference
in the active ingredients (tetrahydrocannabinol vs nicotine), each substance produces a plethora of
chemicals when smoked and these are largely identical; furthermore, due to different modes of smoking,
cannabis chemicals are retained in the body for a longer time. Of course, concomitant tobacco and
cannabis smoking is a perplexing factor in isolating damages specifically pertaining to cannabis use,
while the health risk is additive. Although the mechanisms producing CV harm may be somewhat different
between these two substances, the outcome appears similar, or even worse, as the effects may
emerge at a younger age.
Conclusion: There is an increasing concern that, apart from the mental health problem with cannabis
smoking, societies may be facing another wave of a déjà vu / déjà vécu phenomenon similar to the tobacco