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How does cannabis affect blood pressure?

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Contents

  1. Does marijuana lower or raise blood pressure?
  2. What are the cardiovascular effects of cannabis?
  3. Weed and blood pressure medication
  4. Other effects of weed on blood pressure

Since smoking a joint can lead to a relaxing high, you might wonder about cannabis use and its effect on blood pressure. We know that weed can make your eyes red , but does it also raise or lower blood pressure, or does it not have any effect at all? If you have high blood pressure, is marijuana safe to consume?

Here we’ll address how smoking weed, including medical marijuana, could factor into your blood pressure levels.

Does marijuana lower or raise blood pressure?

To answer this question, we should focus on two of the primary cannabinoids present in cannabis : cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both may exert an influence on blood pressure levels.

Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a medical adviser to Weedmaps and the director of Canna-Centers in Lawndale, California, outlined the potential effects of THC on blood pressure:

“THC can affect blood pressure depending on the dose, the route of administration, a person’s experience with THC, and a person’s underlying health. Healthy volunteers that took THC had an increase in heart rate and decrease in blood pressure. In studies where people used THC while lying down, they had elevated blood pressure. When they stood up, their blood pressure dropped and they experienced low blood pressure.”

These sudden drops in blood pressure, also known as white outs or green outs, may indeed be linked to cannabis use. Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, told Weedmaps that “cannabis may cause a drop in blood pressure on standing — known as postural hypotension.” This type of drop in blood pressure is not desirable, as it can cause vertigo and even fainting. So, when we talk about “lowering blood pressure,” we do not necessarily consider that effect beneficial to health.

Both THC and CBD may lower blood pressure in different ways. However, neither CBD nor THC should be considered a medical treatment for high blood pressure. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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And how does CBD affect blood pressure? The consensus is that CBD tends to relax the blood vessels and decrease anxiety, which ultimately leads to a lowering of blood pressure. This type of blood pressure reduction is more favorable, as it is associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Both THC and CBD may lower blood pressure in different ways. However, based on available research, neither CBD nor THC should be considered a medical treatment for high blood pressure.

What are the cardiovascular effects of cannabis?

Another frequently asked question about cannabis and cardiovascular health is: can weed cause a heart attack?

First, let’s again distinguish between the cannabinoids THC and CBD. For example, CBD oils containing trace levels of THC may have very different effects than smoking a high-THC strain of marijuana. Various studies have indicated that THC may have detrimental effects on cardiovascular health, whereas CBD could be helpful to the heart.

Goldstein added, “CBD does not appear to have the same risks for the heart as THC and in fact, appears to be somewhat cardioprotective.” To support this assertion, Goldstein cited a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in which researchers concluded that CBD has therapeutic potential in treating complications of diabetes, as well as some cardiovascular disorders. Most notably, CBD could reduce inflammation, a condition that can ultimately damage the blood vessels, arteries, and vital organs. So, if you apply CBD oil to your skin or swallow a few tablespoons, the impact could differ greatly than if you smoked a blunt.

To this point, there is some research that suggests smoking THC could directly or indirectly lead to a heart attack. One 2019 study titled “The Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana: Are the Potential Adverse Effects Worth the High?” and published in the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association showed that some people experienced a heart attack within an hour of smoking cannabis.

Bone, however, argued, “On careful study, many of the patients also smoked cigarettes and were obese, making it hard to draw absolute conclusions. Also, the observations were made on cannabis of unknown origin, not cannabis from a dispensary.” The fact that the cannabis did not come from a registered dispensary is significant, as there is no available lab testing to determine what other compounds may have been present.

The bottom line is that there have been studies demonstrating a questionable association between smoking weed and having a heart attack, and more research is necessary.

Weed and blood pressure medication

You might also be wondering, what if you’re smoking weed while taking blood pressure medication? Will there be an adverse reaction? If you are smoking THC-rich cannabis and taking medication for high blood pressure, the answer is that there could be.

Goldstein explained, “Smoking cannabis can be harmful for those with heart disease or hypertension since the smoke contains carbon monoxide. This gas binds to the hemoglobin in red blood cells, displacing oxygen off of the red blood cells which results in less oxygen going to the body’s tissues, including the heart. People with heart disease or high blood pressure should avoid smoking.”

Instead, Goldstein recommends other methods of cannabis use, such as sublingual tinctures or edibles, which she says are safe to use if someone is on blood pressure medication. Further, Bone stressed that people who use cannabis and are on blood pressure medications need to be mindful of the possibility of an interaction with other prescription medications. This means monitoring blood pressure and reporting any dizziness to your doctor, who can adjust your dosages accordingly.

People who use cannabis and are on blood pressure medications need to be mindful of the possibility of an interaction with other prescription medications. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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In particular, the blood thinner warfarin was shown in a 2017 study published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior Case Reports to interact with cannabidiol (CBD) in certain epileptic individuals . In line with Bone’s advice, researchers concluded that patient lab work should be monitored closely.

While it is possible for warfarin and other medications to interact with cannabis, there are no guarantees, and the 2017 study focused on patients with epilepsy rather than on the general population. As Dr. Bone reported, “In my private practice, I have not encountered a significant negative interaction between blood pressure medication and cannabis.”

Other effects of weed on blood pressure

There may be other effects of marijuana on blood pressure that health practitioners have yet to discover. All potential effects depend on the individual’s existing health problems, especially co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Can people without these conditions safely indulge in marijuana? A healthy individual’s body may appear as a well-oiled machine, but Bone disputes that analogy, pointing out that, “Unlike a car, where we replace the brakes or tires, the heart never gets a vacation and the blood vessels need to keep working forever. And the nervous system, which directs the show like a conductor, is on duty 24/7.”

Moderation, then, may be key in integrating a cannabis regimen into your healthcare plan. Consult with your physician before you begin using cannabis or CBD products and discuss any medications you are currently taking.

Learn how cannabis affects blood pressure and what questions you should ask your doctor before starting a regimen.

High Blood Pressure

Updated on April 7, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

With the prevalence of high blood pressure cases increasing and the development and implementation of marijuana laws, people are starting to wonder if the herb can help with their high blood pressure. Many are asking whether cannabis for high blood pressure is effective — and a handful of studies and research says yes.

How Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for High Blood Pressure

First, know that a recent study claims cannabis users, versus nonusers, may be facing a threefold risk of dying from high blood pressure. There are limitations to the study, however. For example, it suggests regular users are anyone who has ever tried marijuana.

But, other research conveys this is a weak assumption. According to a survey, around 52 percent of Americans have tried weed at some point, but only 14 percent admitted to being regular users, meaning they used it at least once a month.

Additionally, the study was observational. What this means is it followed a group of people over an extended period, and then reported their experiences. Therefore, researchers can’t establish a “cause and effect” and say that smoking cannabis causes hypertension. They can only claim that there appears to be a link between the two. The Mayo Clinic, however, says using marijuana can decrease your blood pressure, not increase it.

Time and time again, medical marijuana has been clinically shown to lower blood pressure effectively. Cannabis has two primary types of anti-inflammatory components:

  • THC – psychoactive
  • CBD – non-psychoactive

Medical weed has new strains that offer different portions of CBD and THC, so those who can’t handle THC or would rather not get the “high” feeling from it, have an alternative treatment. Your body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), and the ECS has neurotransmitters equipped with biochemicals to control emotional and immune functions.

These relate directly to hypertension. Cannabis cannabinoids mimic your body’s endocannabinoids, reducing feelings of stress and lowering inflammation-causing high blood pressure.

In one study, researchers injected hypertensive rats with THC and took a record of how it affected their blood pressure. Immediately after the rats received the injection, their blood pressure significantly dropped. The rats continued to have lower blood pressure even days after they received the injection when compared with rats that did not get a dose.

Another study where cats were injected with THC had similar findings — their blood pressure decreased. And, since the cats didn’t have hypertension as the rats did, it seems THC lowers blood pressure even when a pre-existing condition isn’t present.

What Symptoms of High Blood Pressure Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

When you have elevated blood pressure, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain

Hypertension can also lead to anxiety, stress and depression. Certain high blood pressure medications can have side effects marijuana can help with as well, such as muscle cramps, sleep disturbances and tremors. Cannabis can also help to reduce nausea.

Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for High Blood Pressure

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor who has cannabis experience before trying medical marijuana for hypertension. You should also monitor your blood pressure and attend regular doctor visits if you have any serious medical conditions.

Some of the best strains for helping with high blood pressure include the following:

  • Blue Dream (Hybrid): Helps you relax and wind down — just what your blood vessels need with hypertension
  • Purple Kush (Indica): Helps with stress and promotes relaxation
  • Northern Lights (Indica): Removes muscle tension and bodily pain by helping blood flow throughout your body
  • Sour Diesel (Sativa): Reduces anxiety and stress often related to hypertension
  • Mango Kush (Indica) and Jillybean (Hybrid): Hybrid strains to fight nausea
  • Harlequin (Sativa) and Pennywise (Indica): Helps to tackle depression

Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for High Blood Pressure

After you choose your strain, the next thing to consider is your method of use. How you consume marijuana can determine the physical and mental benefits you’ll experience, since each method provides a host of unique effects.

There are three basic methods of delivery: inhalation, oral and topical.

Inhalation

  • Smoking
  • Vaporization
  • Tinctures
  • Ingestible Oils
  • Edibles

Topical

With topical, you get the full cannabis extract. Once activated, the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your skin.

Find a Marijuana Doctor or a Medical Cannabis Dispensary

There’s only one way you can legally obtain your cannabis for high blood pressure treatment, no matter where you live — through a qualified medical pot doctor. After consulting with you, the doctor will give you a recommendation for medical cannabis. To begin the process, you have to search for a marijuana doctor and then locate a medical cannabis dispensary.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is also called hypertension. It’s a common ailment where the blood pressure in your arteries persistently gets too high. The pressure depends upon how much blood your heart pumps and its resistance in your arteries. The narrower your arteries and the more blood pumped by your heart, the higher your blood pressure gets. Hypertension can lead to serious health issues, such as heart disease.

You may have hypertension for years without showing any outward signs, but it still causes damage to your heart and blood vessels. When you don’t control your high blood pressure, it increases your chances of a stroke, heart attack or other dangerous health problems.

Hypertension typically develops over the course of many years, and it affects almost everyone eventually. The good news is that hypertension is easily detected. Once you realize you have it, your doctor can get you started on a treatment plan.

Types of High Blood Pressure

There are two main types of hypertension. Ninety-five percent of individuals who have hypertension have primary or essential hypertension, where there’s no known cause of their high blood pressure. Others who know the cause have secondary hypertension.

Essential Hypertension

Doctors diagnose essential hypertension after they observe your blood pressure being high on three or more visits, and they’ve eliminated all other causes of your high blood pressure. While most individuals with essential hypertension don’t have symptoms, you could experience:

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds
  • Dizziness

Also, even though there’s no known cause for this type of hypertension, researchers do know of certain influences such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Heredity
  • Obesity
  • Diet
  • Diabetes
  • Stress

Other factors can contribute to essential hypertension, so consult with your doctor to see if any others apply to you.

Secondary Hypertension

A common cause of this type of hypertension is an abnormality in the way your arteries supply blood to your kidneys. Other causes may be:

  • Thyroid disease
  • Airway obstruction while sleeping
  • Hormone abnormalities
  • Tumors and diseases of your adrenal glands
  • Too much alcohol and salt in your diet
  • Drugs like OTC medications (i.e., ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine)

Fortunately, once your doctor determines the cause, they can help you control your secondary hypertension.

Additional Hypertension Types

Here are other variations of hypertension that exist as well:

Malignant Hypertension

Around one percent of individuals with high blood pressure have malignant hypertension. It’s most common in women with pregnancy toxemia, young adults and African-American men. It occurs when you have a rapid increase in your blood pressure and when your diastolic pressure reaches more than 130. Doctors consider your blood pressure “normal” when it’s under 120/80.

Isolated Systolic Hypertension

Common in individuals over 65 years old, the cause of isolated systolic hypertension is when you experience a loss of elasticity in your arteries. When your systolic pressure increases over 140, but the lower number keeps below 90 (normal range), you have isolated systolic hypertension.

Resistant Hypertension

You might have resistant hypertension if your blood pressure continues to be high even after your doctor has already prescribed you three different forms of antihypertensive medications. This type of hypertension could occur in around 20 to 30 percent of all cases of high blood pressure. Resistant hypertension is more common in individuals who are female, obese, older and African-American and could have a genetic component. It’s also common in people with an underlying condition like kidney disease or diabetes.

History of High Blood Pressure

Although blood pressure measurement dates as far back as the 19th century, clear evidence of what normal blood pressure is and how to treat an elevated pressure goes back to the latter half of the 20th century.

In the 1950s, doctors considered elevated blood pressure to be necessary for perfusion of vital organs. Even though insurance companies knew the mortality and morbidity rates of high blood pressure at that time, and they often rejected people who had hypertension, there was a delay in the medical community to recognize the danger of hypertension.

After researchers pioneered population studies and clinical trials, hypertension management improved rapidly. These days, many patients are receiving successful treatment, and hypertension-related disease is decreasing dramatically.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

There’s a reason high blood pressure is called the “silent killer.” Most of the time, high blood pressure has no noticeable symptoms to indicate there’s something wrong. You can protect yourself by knowing the risks and making necessary changes, though.

If your blood pressure continues to stay high for a long duration, it can cause damage to your body and create complications such as:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Eye damage
  • Heart failure
  • Cognitive changes
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Aneurysms

High blood pressure can also affect you psychologically. Some mental effects of hypertension include:

Stress

When in a stressful situation, your body generates a rush of hormones to cause your blood vessels to narrow and your heart to beat faster, increasing your blood pressure temporarily. While there’s no association between stress and long-term hypertension, you should still take steps to keep your stress level down to improve both your physical and mental health.

Psychological Distress

Studies indicate a link between hypertension and depression, anxiety and psychological distress.

Affects Relationships

It’s not difficult to see how living with anxiety or depression can cause tension and make it difficult for both you and those around you. Individuals struggling with depression often wish to be alone and don’t feel up to interacting with others. When dealing with anxiety and confronted with social situations, people often react negatively.

High Blood Pressure Statistics

High blood pressure statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:

  • Approximately 75 million American adults (one in three) have high blood pressure.
  • Only 54 percent of these individuals have their hypertension under control.
  • Around one in three adults in the U.S. have pre-hypertension, which is high blood pressure numbers, but not enough to be considered hypertension.
  • Over 410,000 Americans died in 2014 because of high blood pressure, which translates to over 1,100 deaths a day.

Current Treatments Available for High Blood Pressure and Their Side Effects

Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan for your hypertension based on your diagnosis. The treatment plan likely includes healthy lifestyle changes and medication to control your blood pressure.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle habits can help keep your high blood pressure under control. They include:

  • Eating healthy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Being physically active
  • Coping and managing stress
  • Limiting alcohol intake

You don’t have to make all these lifestyle changes at once as it could become overwhelming. Instead, start by choosing one healthy lifestyle change and gradually add on another. As you continue to create healthy habits, your blood pressure may begin to lower, and you’ll be able to maintain a recommended blood pressure reading.

Medications

Hypertension medications work in their distinct way to slow or stop some of the body functions causing your high blood pressure. Some hypertension medications include:

Diuretics

Diuretics are fluid or water pills which flush your body of excess sodium to help lower your blood pressure. Your doctor may advise you to combine diuretics with other hypertension medications, sometimes in one pill.

Side effects of diuretics may include:

  • Headaches
  • Hypernatremia (low blood sodium)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Impotence
  • Joint disorders (gout)

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers work by slowing down your heartbeat. This causes your heart to pump less blood in your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure.

Side effects of beta blockers may include:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth, eyes or skin
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Alpha Blockers

Alpha blockers help reduce the nerve impulses that cause your blood vessels to tighten, allowing your blood to flow freely.

Side effects of alpha blockers may include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sudden blood pressure drop when standing or sitting up
  • Tremor
  • Itchiness or rash
  • Swollen ankles or legs
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Weakness, tiredness or feeling lethargic

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers keep calcium from getting into the muscle cells of your blood vessels and heart. Your blood vessels relax, and your blood pressure decreases.

Side effects of calcium channel blockers may include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Slower heart rate
  • Increased appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Swelling of your legs and ankles
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)

Other medications you can discuss with your doctor include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Central-acting agents
  • Vasodilators
  • Alpha-beta blockers

These all come with side effects, so be sure to go over them with your doctor.

See how medical marijuana could help relieve your high blood pressure. Find patient reviews on local doctors and information on treatment options.