Cardiovascular system effects of marijuana

J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Nov;42(S1):58S-63S. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.2002.tb06004.x.


Marijuana and delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) increase heart rate, slightly increase supine blood pressure, and on occasion produce marked orthostatic hypotension. Cardiovascular effects in animals are different, with bradycardia and hypotension the most typical response. Cardiac output increases, and peripheral vascular resistance and maximum exercise performance decrease. Tolerance to most of the initial cardiovascular effects appears rapidly. With repeated exposure, supine blood pressure decreases slightly, orthostatic hypotension disappears, blood volume increases, heart rate slows, and circulatory responses to exercise and Valsalva maneuver are diminished, consistent with centrally mediated, reduced sympathetic, and enhanced parasympathetic activity. Receptor-mediated and probably nonneuronal sites of action account for cannabinoid effects. The endocannabinoid system appears important in the modulation of many vascular functions. Marijuana's cardiovascular effects are not associated with serious health problems for most young, healthy users, although occasional myocardial infarction, stroke, and other adverse cardiovascular events are reported. Marijuana smoking by people with cardiovascular disease poses health risks because of the consequences of the resulting increased cardiac work, increased catecholamine levels, carboxyhemoglobin, and postural hypotension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabis*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / physiology
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects*
  • Humans


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Dronabinol