There's more evidence that smoking marijuana can be dangerous for people with heart disease, according to two new studies presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. But in an unexpected twist, people who use cannabis were less likely to experience sudden kidney failure, the researchers found.Looking at the totality of the two studies, they seem to contain some contradictory findings, said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a cannabis expert, instructor at Harvard Medical School and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation. On the one hand, Grinspoon said, researchers are reporting increases in stroke, bleeding and second heart attacks in those using cannabis, but on the other, they are reporting improvements in cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.Grinspoon was particularly struck by the lower rate of kidney failure among those who used marijuana in the Yoo study.“By their measures, they’ve actually shown that cannabis decreases kidney damage, which should be a huge headline in itself,” he said.
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Peter Grinspoon, MD, is a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of the memoir Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction. He spent two years as an Associate Director of the Massachusetts Physician Health Service helping physicians with addiction and mental health issues. He graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy with honors from Swarthmore College. He then spent five years as a Campaign Director for the environmental group Greenpeace before entering medical school at Boston University School of Medicine, where he graduated with honors. He completed his residency at Harvard’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, in the primary care program. He has been on national television including NBC, C-SPAN, and Fox and Friends, and his writings have been published in The Nation and The Los Angeles Times. He is a Contributing Editor to Harvard Health Publications.