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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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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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lks1959 February 27 2014 at 1:29 AM

Two possibly related fatalities, of all the millions of times that millions of users have used cannabis without ill effects? Good heavens, that would make pot safer than aspirin - by a long shot.

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1 reply
guitarspeak lks1959 February 27 2014 at 1:57 AM

its safer than anything I can thin of, even energy drinks have killed kids. That's currently par of a class action suit. Somethng pot will never be.

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Chickiepoo February 27 2014 at 1:30 AM

From the AOL front page headline of this article:

" A landmark study has found the first instances of marijuana-related death in two healthy 20-year-olds "

............."healthy 20-year olds".............

Yet they had "underlying conditions"........

Doesn't sound very "healthy" when they have "underlying conditions"........sounds more contradictory than anything.........

Along with the author's lack of proofreading their article.

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1 reply
guitarspeak Chickiepoo February 27 2014 at 1:56 AM

Yes, totally contradictory. Good catch. Preexisting conditions is NOT healthy. Who is this writer?

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RED SKULL February 27 2014 at 1:33 AM

"2" Deaths ? Please how many people died from cigarettes and booze in the US today ? What, this is news??? Give us a break.

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1 reply
guitarspeak RED SKULL February 27 2014 at 1:55 AM

yes! Exactly. The two main killers remain legal. What bullshit that is.

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fnrjohnny February 27 2014 at 1:33 AM

This is an alarmist hoot.

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JS68DUECE February 27 2014 at 1:34 AM

talk about stretching!!! GEEZ really? that is so ridiculous to even mention cannabis. well now, one is a heart failure waiting to happen, and the other has destroyed most of his body with drugs and alcohol. YUP WEED !! that's what killed them. u huh NO LIE that was the cause?!?!?!?! MORONS

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carla120956 February 27 2014 at 1:34 AM

And, what about all those with heart conditions who take Viagra? The number of deaths involved with that MUST be higher than the two reported above.

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1 reply
carla120956 carla120956 February 27 2014 at 1:44 AM

Yet, do people really question the use of Viagra? Viagra is a huge boon to the pharmaceutical industry. Only lowly dispensaries and co-ops possibly make a small profit from the marijuana business - enough to keep themselves going.

Everything has the potential to create problems for certain people. Benadryl has saved the lives of countless people by stopping acute allergic reactions. Yet there are people who are allergic to Benadryl. In the life saving category, Benadryl use far outweighs the withholding of it whilst they test for allergies.

At least with cannabis, they inform the world of even the LEAST PROBABILITY that could cause a negative response. Listen to the fast talk at the end of most drug commercials; this minor possibility is NOTHING compared to the side effects listed on every one of those ads.

Can this prohibition on cannabis just stop now?

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Spont You STUD!! February 27 2014 at 1:36 AM

So the heading states that they DID die from cannabis use, then the articles first sentences states that they MAY have died from cannasbis use, then the content of the article suggests heart problems. So did they die of heart failure or did they die of cannabis use? Once again there are scare tactics and myths being promoted here and once again a bunch of nonsense. Nice try, try again. Fail.

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Brandon Lee February 27 2014 at 1:43 AM

I really do not think or believe that cannabis can kill. 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.
I believe that cocaine must have been the source of their death

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hoofus42 February 27 2014 at 1:45 AM

That's still less than peanut butter.

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