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German study finds cannabis use triggered 2 deaths



BERLIN (AP) - Cannabis use likely triggered fatal complications that led to the deaths of two men with underlying health conditions, according to scientists in Germany.

The findings are noteworthy because cannabis isn't normally associated with acute physical problems, let alone death.

The researchers, based at Duesseldorf and Frankfurt's university hospitals, said these were isolated cases but suggested people who might have serious heart problems should be made aware of the risk of cannabis use.

Their study was published online this month in the journal Forensic Science International.

The cases involved two outwardly healthy young men, aged 23 and 28, who died unexpectedly after smoking cannabis.

"To our knowledge, these are the first cases of suspected fatal cannabis intoxications where full post-mortem investigations (...) were carried out," the researchers said.

Autopsies showed that the younger man had a serious undetected heart problem and the older one had a history of alcohol, amphetamine and cocaine abuse.

These underlying conditions, combined with cannabis's known effect of increasing a user's heart rate or blood pressure when lying down, may have caused the men's hearts to lose their rhythm.

Dr. Benno Hartung, one of the study's authors, said the cases were among 15 deaths the scientists reviewed between 2011 and 2012. In 13 of them, other factors likely were to blame.

"We assume that these are very rare, isolated cases," Hartung said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, noting that it was hard to draw any wider conclusion about the number of deaths that might be caused by cannabis use.

Still, the researchers concluded that while cannabis isn't particularly toxic and its effects are short lived, people who are at high risk for cardiovascular diseases should avoid the drug.

Dr. David Nutt, who is chairman of Britain's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and wasn't involved in the study, said the researchers had presented an "exceptionally complete collection of evidence in support of their theory that, unusually, cannabis was the trigger for these two tragedies."

"People with vulnerable hearts should be informed of this risk with cannabis," he said.

Nutt added that alcohol and tobacco use are responsible for a large share of premature deaths in Europe each year. An additional strain to the heart during strenuous activities can have similarly fatal consequences in people with underlying conditions, he said.

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Cheyenne@satx.rr.com February 27 2014 at 12:26 AM

well I think they should have asked for better solutions of what to do and what not ask your doctor if it is save to use weed its not for everyone and defenitly not for who used already drugs an over dose is easy but if you take it in modertion like I do for my migrains it is a great help its just hard to get it here from doctor whereI come from I just go to the store and get it but here they are still uptight about it , so don't blame it for you being stupid.

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concernedphsparent February 27 2014 at 11:46 AM

Wonder how many deaths are associated with marijuana as compared to alcohol.

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rwallerfam5 February 27 2014 at 12:48 AM

So much medical history on both individuals is missing from this article that it renders it useless. Pinning these deaths on cannabis is an enormous jump and done solely to put their names in the news. I would be willing to bet tha there are many factors that contributed to each death and that pot's affect had little to nothing to do with it.

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sheri84 February 27 2014 at 12:50 AM

I've known this for years. As I discovered I had a heart condition afterwards. I was lucky as I am still alive. I was 16 and I am now 47. And more people SHOULD get checkups in their 20's. Or younger. But then people also die of peanut allergies.

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assistvesel954 February 27 2014 at 11:45 AM

a history of alcohol, amphetamine and cocaine abuse, not just use.
and it was the weed that killed him?
yeah, right.

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1 reply
KIRSTEN assistvesel954 February 27 2014 at 11:54 AM

LMAO!! I know RIGHT!!?

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ramonbatt February 27 2014 at 11:38 AM

2 deaths vs millions of tabbacco? Do the math?

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Rodney February 27 2014 at 1:05 AM

I smoked bunches of it for bout 20 years. Then in 1996 it stated effecting my blood pressure. Lying down or not. Gave it up. no problem since. That was 18 years ago. Didn't have that trouble with it for the first 20 years. But developed it as I got older. And yes blood pressure high enough, it will kill ya.

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2 replies
calliope1961 Rodney February 27 2014 at 1:07 AM

My guess is that you had other underlying reasons for your high blood pressure. Were you obese from all those years of smoking "bunches" and satisfying those munchies?

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Sire Rodney February 27 2014 at 1:27 AM

Did it coincide with the same pot belly that you got?

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Lynn-Boss Lady February 27 2014 at 1:11 AM

I call B.S. This artical uses words like "likely" and "may". Who is really behind this artical?

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Sandra February 27 2014 at 1:11 AM

"These underlying conditions, combined with cannabis's known effect of increasing a user's heart rate or blood pressure when lying down, may have caused the men's hearts to lose their rhythm." Key word...MAY have caused. A far cry from "trigger deaths".

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1 reply
guitarspeak Sandra February 27 2014 at 2:02 AM

this shouldn't be convincing anyone. It's a totally weak, trumped up premise that isn't holding any water.
Why haven't there been any deaths before this? No one who smoked pot ever had heart issues before this? Or also used coke and meth? What bullshit this article is.

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aarquisola56 February 27 2014 at 11:38 AM

"Autopsies showed that the younger man had a serious undetected heart problem and the older one had a history of alcohol, amphetamine and cocaine abuse."

...So this basically means it wasn't the weed's fault. Go home Germany. You're high.

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1 reply
Amaya aarquisola56 February 27 2014 at 12:03 PM

That's exactly what they've said the entire article, stop being so defensive.

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