Well, it’s clear now, there’s conclusive evidence that smoking marijuana can marginally increase your chances of have a heart attack or stroke. Or is it…
If you actually read the article over at Reuters, you’ll find that the marijuana users in the study had a 30% increase in a protein that raises trigliceride levels which “can contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls, raising the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.”
So it increases a protein by an arbitrary value, that has an effect on something else that might increase the chances of factors that can contribute to a heart attack or stroke.
So let’s move past that. Let’s assume that a 30% increase in apolipoprotein C-III leads directly to a 30% increase in the rate of heart attack or stroke, let’s look at the population sample.
“The marijuana users in the study averaged smoking 78 to 350 marijuana cigarettes per week”
Let’s break that down a little. 350 joints a week is 50 joints a day. If you figure that most people are awake somewhere around 17 hours a day, then that’s just shy of 3 joints an hour or one every twenty minutes, all day long, every day. Now let’s compare that to other things in life.
Let’s say that 1 beer = 1 joint in terms of party value. That’s a little exaggerated because while I’m no expert on marijuana, my high-school days taught me that one joint for an individual was usually more than enough for a decent party. Beer usually took six pints to be having a good time. But for illustration, let’s go with a 1:1 ratio. How healthy do you think a person would be if they drank 50 beers a day, every day? Well quite frankly most human beings would be dead. So let’s cut it down a little and go to 24 beer per day which is still more than 10 times what the CDC calls heavy drinking. That would probably put you in the alcoholic range. The long term effect of alcoholism are pretty well cased out at this point, and let’s just say that if you were abusing alcohol this badly, a 30% increase in the chance of heart attack or stroke would be the least of your problems.
Comparing something allegedly dangerous to a known poison isn’t necessarily the best example though. So let’s compare it to something more benign. How about water? Well as it turns out, during an e-coli outbreak, some scientists found something unrelated, but worth following up on. As it turns out, drinking 18 large glasses of fluid per day will pretty much pulverise your liver and guess what. It causes heart disease.
Let’s say 18 large glasses is about 36 average sized glasses. That’s still less than 50 per day and that’s from an essentially benign substance. The damage wasn’t done by pollutants or other inclusions. It was just the water.
I’m not a guy who’s a huge supporter of marijuana. I think decriminalization in Canada is necessary but full out legalization is a bit of a stretch. That generally puts me right in the middle when it comes to opinions on the topic in Canada. What I do support though is the battle against bad science. Even at the low end, 78 joints a week is 11 joints per day. Even though that’s a less absurd number than 50, it’s still pretty high. This study doesn’t study marijuana users, it studies serious marijuana abusers and in some cases, near super-human abusers.
I’m always interested in hearing about new and interesting science, but for every study that is broadcast on the news that actually is interesting, there are at least two others that are just bad science funded by questionable groups or are misinterpreted with conclusions that reach way beyond the scope of the actual study. I suppose that last one falls under bad reporting rather than bad science, but I digress…
To me, the lesson of this study is not that marijuana is dangerous, it’s that we can add yet another thing to the list of things that are bad for us if we grossly abuse them. As it turns out, that list is really, really long. Hmmmm… Maybe that’s a finding that’s worth pursuing…