It’s not a heart attack: chest pain from smoking weed

There is actually very little known about the effects of cannabis on the body’s most important organ, the heart

heart-attack

Photo by Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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UPDATE: For further reading on cannabis and its possible side effects, please click here and here.

While there’s debate among doctors on the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, cardiovascular health is one area where most medical professionals urge consumers to exercise caution when it comes to cannabis as chest pain from smoking weed can occur.

There are many scary (mostly pseudoscientific) health claims made about smoking weed—that puffing, for example, may lead to psychosis, or early onset of schizophrenia—but there is actually very little known about the effects of cannabis on the body’s most important organ, the heart.

Correlation between heart health and cannabis?

Marcelo Leal / Unsplash

“Evidence about the relationship between marijuana use and cardiovascular health is very poor,” says Dr. Andrew Pipe, a heart specialist at the Ottawa Heart Institute. The literature on the relationship between marijuana use and cardiovascular incidents like heart attacks, he says, “is very obscure.” 

A 2014 article on the subject published in the New England Journal of Medicine,  concluded that marijuana use can increase risks of heart attack and stroke, but the mechanisms by which that can happen are unclear. For example, the article found that risks associated with smoking cannabis are more immediate, within a few hours of its use, as opposed to cumulative.

Complicating matters is the fact that cannabis is often used with other drugs, including tobacco and alcohol. The link between depression and heart disease is another complicating factor.

Heart palpitations from smoking weed

Doctors agree that the least advisable way to consume cannabis (for your heart, at least) is also the most common—smoking. “Any time you smoke you are inhaling large amounts of carbon monoxide,” says Pipe.

That makes your heart pump harder to make up for the lack of oxygen in your blood, which serves to stress it even further causing chest pain from smoking weed.

The lack of oxygen is the culprit for an effect that many people experience when they smoke weed: a racing heart, especially if you’re smoking dry weed, or weed that produces thick smoke, your heart is being pushed into overdrive, which can also heighten feelings of paranoia.

Positive effects of cannabis on your heart

 Online Marketing / Unsplash

It is possible, however, that cannabis can have positive therapeutic effects on the heart.

A 2017 study conducted at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey found that those who use cannabis are less likely to experience atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can complicate the symptoms of heart failure. The study also found that pot smokers are less likely to die in the hospital after heart failure.

Those findings surprised researchers, who were quick to point out that they are early results. Pipe agrees that “the amount of strong evidence… is very small.” The proof isn’t there yet

Anti-inflammatory benefits

But the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis could be the key, Pipe says.

 “We know that there are cannabinoid receptors in the heart, so cannabis can stimulate the heart in a number of ways,” Pipe says.

Of course, despite the cardiovascular risks, not everyone will stay away from smoking weed completely, especially if they’re using cannabis to relieve other symptoms, like arthritis or colitis.

Edibles and vaping could be better

CDC / Unsplash

Pipe’s general message for those people? Make it a bit easier on your heart and lungs by using edibles or a vaporizer. But, here too, there are issues to keep in mind.

With edibles, there are still effects on the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen and blood pressure. Also, dosing is more complicated. The onset of the effects of edibles takes longer, causing people to consume more. This potentially increases stresses on the heart. When vaping, you take harmful contaminants associated with smoking out of the equation, but typically take in more THC.

If you’re considering cannabis for medical purposes, Pipe advises discussing it with your doctor first.

Post-legalization, cannabis is more widely available than ever. Doctors are learning the risks and the benefits and can help you choose an option—be it CBD oil or topical creams—to reduce risks to your heart.

Discussion


  • frank m oprzedek April 11, 2020 07:57 PM

    this information was a great help.

  • Peter May 11, 2020 06:35 PM

    Apparently you do not need to hold the smoke in so this could help …

  • Jesse August 13, 2020 08:51 PM

    I have been smoking weed for a very long time,recently I’ve been feeling small pain on the left side of my chest,symptoms similar to this article.Any update would be very much appreciated.

    • Brent October 20, 2020 07:33 AM

      The same for me. Have you figured out the issue?

    • Alex November 5, 2020 02:35 PM

      Bro same im 15 about to turn 16. Ive been smoking weed for about 3 years now and my heart started to hurt like 2 weeks ago. Then a week later my veins strted to burn. Any info??? This has mever happened before i cant even get high anymore with feeling my heart. Its pike if it was getting tight or something, but then it goes away after like 30 minutes

      • Carla November 7, 2020 02:48 PM

        Wait this just happened to me too and I almost called 911 because I thought I was having a heart attack. I also suffer from anxiety disorder. This sucks because I need weed to calm down. Right side of my chest burns and I’m really scared. This never happened before

  • Edd October 21, 2020 01:32 PM

    Same Here. This seems like a common thing but no info on it.

  • Val October 23, 2020 10:11 PM

    Bro me too shit sucks cause I use to always smoke weed and be high asf w no problem and now it’s like every time I do it the left side of my chest hurts and I just ruins the whole experience

  • Sam October 26, 2020 05:34 PM

    Same for me. I think my main problem is the heat irritating my upper bronchial tubes as well as causing muscle strains in my chest and back from coughing. I only noticed the symptoms after I smoke. And it seems to slowly go away if I wait long enough. I smoke quite often so it may just be time to give my body a break.

  • Justin November 3, 2020 01:03 PM

    Bruhhh!! So I’m not the only one! I just started feeling that not to long ago and thought some was wrong if we all feeling that lil sharp pain or the left side hurting that means someone is putting something in the weed if this is all new to us no one has felt this way up until this year right? That means someone is doing this!

  • Don November 3, 2020 05:36 PM

    I thought the same thing. Bc I used to smoke weed all the time with my friends now I can’t bc I just hurt to bad to even get high anymore. But see the weird thing is nun of them have the same problem?

  • Diogo November 5, 2020 06:44 PM

    Your chest are hurts because you were smoking a lot of carbon monoxide like described. What causes that feeling im small but conclusive way is:
    -You heart is beating faster than usual because of THC components on your blood, but many people stress out about that when they read “faster”, frequently 5-15 extra bpm… (dont worry…, only if you have like previous heart diseases and even like that just dont abuse weed..)

    1. You became into a permanent state of anxiety after smoking, sometimes you will handle that anxiety in a very simple and Bob Marley way (chill, and you will normally feel high as usual)
    2. If some bad things are happening in your life, even if you dont give it a lot of importance to the specific thing, you will translate bad feeling to other bad sensation that you feel. (Example: Every people feels that burning sensation on pain and sometimes even pain! sharp or stabbing, is normal… THC stays atached to your mucus, wich im sure you have, wich will cause the burning sensation or pain)

    So, all of you are having little paranoias, anxiety and panic attacks, i know it seems to agressive to say panic attacks, anxiety etc.. but it is what you are having almost without a doubt, and im sure you are all under age 30.

    Conclusion, your father is bad? or mother is sick? you have bad grades? you cant have a girl? dont smoke weed you will translate all that feelings into and obessive paranoia with the simple buring or pain that you fill on CHEST not even on your heart, otherelse if it was permanent pain in ur heart you wouldnt take more than 1 week.

    Good nigh

  • Diogo November 5, 2020 06:46 PM

    Obviously you take what i said seriously after you exclude lung and heart problems. (Dont stress about it, even if you have problems you wont die.)
    GO check yourself, than thank me 🙂

  • Diogo November 5, 2020 07:07 PM

    I forgot to mention the solution,
    All you have to do is put youself in hyperventilation wich means RUN, if you run for at less 25 min (average time) you will start to hyperventilate wich requires your lungs to expand and have the need to expel non necessary substancies to handle oxygen to your system, you will expel all that mucus and thc stuck in your throat or lungs or respiratory canal. You will know the run is working when you start to feel the need to spit or to trhow up wich i advise you not to go against it but to go for it! Just throw up , just spit untill you expel it all.

  • junior November 6, 2020 06:53 PM

    Wow, you made me feel so much better. Im gonna listen to you and start running. If i die mf im coming back to hunt you!!!
    just kidding lol.

    • Diogo Mendes November 8, 2020 01:37 PM

      Just keep sharing you thoughts if it helped bro 🙂

    • Diogo Mendes November 8, 2020 01:40 PM

      Im very glad to read that bro! If you already ran just share with me your thoughts 🙂
      Or go for it!!

      • J-man January 13, 2021 06:37 AM

        Diogo I’ve also heard that if your heart cannot cope with the pressure built up inside your cardovascular system, that it can make you very flemmy because a lot of stuff gets forced out of your lungs. I think this might have a good effect in the long run, but can put an immense amount of stress on your cardiovascular system while you’re attempting it, so be safe out there.

  • Kevin November 9, 2020 12:00 AM

    Hey yea man. I’m 15 too turning 16 next month. I used to smoke weed every now and then a while ago but I kinda of just stopped. Recently (or for around a year now) I’ve been getting dizziness problems and got a EKG just recently if that’s how you spell it. Told me to just drink more water cause my body isn’t distributing/letting blood flow properly. I got back in the habit of smoking weed and for some reason the last few blunts I take all make my heart go incredibly fast and I have chest pains during (which is the least of my worries), I’m mainly worried that my middle/right side of my chest just now has a permanent slight discomfort/pain to it and heats up a bit. Not sure if these 2 things are connected, if I should stop smoking all together, a solution, (etc.). Kinda don’t want to go to the doctors for it (family related) and so I’m not sure if there’s anything that can help. Thanks.

  • John November 10, 2020 12:40 AM

    Did you ever get covid before this started happening?

    • J-Man January 13, 2021 06:36 AM

      This is what I suspect also, however for me the pains started happening a while before the covid hysteria, I certainly don’t believe covid started spreading from 2020 though, this virus was known about well before. I also notice swelling feet late at night sometimes which is gone by the time I wake up.
      I’m taking a few measures, reducing sugar and carbs (to try rule out early onset diabetes), and more excercise and trying to reduce smoking to as little as possible. I definitely feel like the problem is reduced when I smoke less and excercise more, and drink more water – but it’s getting to the point where it’s bothering me enough to maybe go see a doc. I don’t have money for all the test though, so having to hold off and try other things before. Bought a pulse oximeter and notice when I hit a B, my blood rate will increase more and more, by the late evening it can be around 100 or more BPM. There’s no doubt in my mind that heart and circulation are taking undue stress from the lifestyle that smoking weed comes with, probably because of CO2 intake, but my oximeter rarely dips below 95% from my finger. It also got much worse when I started taking ADHD medication, which I can assure you does not mix well with the herb because of the stimulation on parasympathetic system. I may have broken something 😛

  • Holly November 12, 2020 07:09 PM

    So glad to see that I am probably not having a heart attack and that this is fairly common! Definitely made my boyfriend wake up and sit with me until I knew I was okay a couple weeks ago after gasping and grasping my chest twice. Still worrisome since the pain is clearly related to our hearts. I think my pains were exacerbated by election/covid/state of the world anxiety in the last month.

    • J-man January 13, 2021 06:44 AM

      Not trying to freak you out, but there’s nothing to say you won’t have a heart-attack, I just read a pubmed article talking about two young patients who smoked ciggies and weed for about 10 years. One of them had un unexpected cardiac arrest due to the damage done to his heart in that time. He made a full recovery after a week supervision, so play careful if you’re body is telling you there’s a problem. The people who told us weed was harmless and it’s never killed anyone were lying through ignorance.

  • Jim winger November 13, 2020 12:36 AM

    Hello, I have been smoking weed for many many years, I’m 47, I have asthma, but I was ok to smoke, last week I had an asthma attack, 3 rd one in my life, now after a week plus, my chest still hurts, I’m breathing a lot better and not smoking at all, what kind of withdrawal will I go thru? What could cause my chest to still hurt?

    • J-man January 13, 2021 06:42 AM

      I’m no doctor, but I’ve experienced similar issues earlier in life – I was diagnosed with costochondritis which is quite common – comes from stressing the muscles and cargilliage in the chest (usually by caughing). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/costochondritis/
      You take take something for the inflammation (I was prescribed 600mg ibuprofen a day for a couple of weeks), which will deal with the pain. Not sure if that’s your situation, but something to look into. You can also check for tenderness of your ribcage and rib intercostal muslces as an indicator.

  • Chris November 15, 2020 12:59 PM

    Ive started having the same feelings over the last few months smoke a bowl and then start feeling tightness and heart palpitations went to the ER had a catheterization down heart is fine no problems no shortness of breath but pain persist I’ve gone two days now without smoking pain is gone but I’m going to try again tonight and I’m sure it’s going to come back like I’m having a heart attack question here is what is causing this I have grown my own weed and know that it is not tainted in anyway talk to the doctors They want you to either quit or don’t understand why it hurts I was going to turn to the doctor again and have my lungs x-rayed but after reading all these articles seems like I’m not the only one with this problem my question Is has anybody figured out how to stop it without stopping smoking. I had quit smoking for 32 years finally got to the age of 61 to start enjoying some retirement and I’ll be damned after a year of smoking pot now it’s feels like it’s killing me what a f—ing shame I always like the buzz feeling what’s the weather is truly a doctor out there studying studying this if you need a patient to test give me an email drop it’s going to be on this page thanks and I’m gonna continue reading this article‘s on the web page Good luck to all out there suffering from having a good time what a shiting shame

    • J-man January 13, 2021 06:46 AM

      Maybe you just need to find mild weed, or stuff with a high CBD over THC content. I would give that a try…

  • Amber November 24, 2020 06:32 PM

    Glad I found this thread… I’m 20 and during these COVID times I’ve been smoking daily. About a week ago I also started feeling these panic symptoms.. I legit thought I was dying lol. Even though I know weed causes anxiety which can lead to these symptoms I all I could think about was “what if it’s something serious”. My chest pain is very subtle but when accompanied by an increased heart rate it can feel pretty scary. I think I have put myself in a horrible loop where now that I expect to /worry about having a panic attack it happens. This has happened almost every time (3/4) since the first time. I hope that the peace of mind reading these brought me will help next time I try..

  • Drew November 26, 2020 01:29 AM

    I tried running and I’m seeing how that works, I smoke poppers so I know the batch has something to do with it (for me at least), however I’ve had this happen and let it build up over the past couple of months, went to the ER got and x ray ecg and blood work done, I got adhd and get anxiety/ panic attacks so I know the difference between them, maybe it’s build up of fear and worrying that could be worsening the symptoms however if your coughing up things u shouldn’t or feel the absolute need to go the ER then go, I’ll tell you the same thing they told me, sometimes it’s best to get re assured on things and it’s never a bad thing to go out of your way and get it checked, doc said something about reactive airway disorder, but I doubt that’s it, the best thing would be to go to your family doctor and get a full physical check up, maybe request an echocardiogram to them and see how things go from there, we are ok , we need take in the psychological part of the weed and where our thoughts might carry with your high as well

    • J-man January 13, 2021 06:48 AM

      If you’re on ADHD medication like me, just know that your parasympathetic nervous system can be put into overdrive, making your heart work way harder than norm if you combine it with a puff. I think over a bit of time, the damage and inflammation builds up to the point where any elevation in heart rate can trigger these stabbing/pinching pains in that area….

  • Camilla November 26, 2020 05:15 PM

    I’m so happy i’m not alone. I’m 20 y/o and The past 3 months i’ve been smoking daily, with no problems, but recently i’ve been having the worst chestpains everytime i smoke. It’s so annoying bc smoking usually calms me down. But now i can’t even get a little high without feeling like i’m having a heartattack.. i’m gonna take a week of and see what happens… if anyone figures this out, let me know pls.

  • Müllerr November 26, 2020 08:57 PM

    Damn guys, also very glad to see there is more people with this problem.
    I have been smoking since 6 years and since maybe two months i have been having bad chest pain on my left side. I also smoke cigarettes but i only feel the pain when i smoke weed.

    So i took 3 weeks off and didnt smoke any weed only cigarettes and i feel fine. But when i smoked weed again after, i have the chest pain again and i dont know what to do.

  • mo November 27, 2020 11:53 AM

    I have the exact same problems. For me they started to occur in October 2019. A sharp pain in the upper left part of my chest. For me they symptoms appear at some times, and then i don’t feel them for months. I know this is not related to covid since i’ve been having these symptoms since october last year. I’ve been smoking pot for years now, and i’m too addicted to give it up. But i’ve noticed that these symptoms mostly come after a period where i smoked quite a bit. I’m too scared to go to the doctor (which i already did btw, and the doctor said it was related to my stomach), so i’m hoping someone else can explain this one to me?

  • Michael November 27, 2020 05:11 PM

    Thank you for that. Found it all very helpful and felt like you were talking to me directly. I’m gonna chill for a while and see how it goes. Thanks again.

  • Faraz Yousuf November 27, 2020 07:57 PM

    Guys I’m having all the same problems as y’all. Long time smoker and been smoking like a cart a week, but not my chest feels like I’m having a heart attack and I’m only 24 year old. We all have GERD or known as heart burn. The smoking irritating your stomach making acidic fluid go up ur throat and passes ur chest area giving that short intense chest pain. Take Tums when it’s happening and it should go away. But like what some people said, you gotta have the mindset that you are not gonna have the pain when u smoke Bc your head playing games with you too.

  • Cory November 28, 2020 01:13 AM

    Same here! I’m 51, and I’ve been a stoner since college. I don’t smoke anymore; I use a vaporizer to enjoy the cannabis flower.

    However, just in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed this slight pain/discomfort in the left side of my chest. It feels deep inside, and it sometimes feels as if something moved, aside from my regular heartbeat.

    I’m already finding comfort in knowing I’m not the only one experiencing this.

    Then again… isn’t that strange that we’re all feeling this recently? ?

  • Daniel B November 29, 2020 12:30 AM

    This thread is reassuring. I’m glad I’m not the only one, at least. Been smoking daily for 2 years, and all the chest stuff started happening a couple of months ago. I think it probably is anxiety. If anyone finds a secret fix please, god, let me know.

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