A local doctor at the Heart and Vascular Center in Lawton is concerned about the impacts medical marijuana is having on people’s hearts.

“I want to really, kinda urge the public and the people who think they’re using it for medicinal purposes to re-think this process,” Dr. Bassam Saliba, a cardiologist at the Heart and Vascular Center, said. “Talk with their physicians and absolutely it if only other treatment has failed.”

Dr. Saliba said since state question 788 passed – which legalized medical marijuana – they’ve seen an increase in heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths at CCMH.

“Every time we’re on call, we seem to be seeing more and more heart attack patients,” he said. “But now more and more data is rolling in, and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, mortality in cardiovascular disease, mortality from what we call simple arrhythmia is not only doubling, but it’s quadrupling in patients who are using cannabis.”

Dr. Saliba said it’s not uncommon for them to see someone 50 having heart problems, but he’s seeing people younger having problems too.

“Just last time I was on call, a 32-year-old came in with ST-Elevation Heart Attack,” he said. “He has some 20, 30% blockages and was marijuana. One of those blockages split open, formed a blood clot, and now he has ST-Elevation Heart Attack.”

He says 788 was presented like it was going to be for people who really, really needed it, but that’s not how it seems now. Dr. Saliba said groups like the American Heart Association and American Medical Association have said medical marijuana isn’t always beneficial and can actually be harmful.

“People need to understand this is a drug,” Dr. Saliba said. “This is not a medicine. This is a drug, and this drug is not benign.”

He said a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology says there’s a 43% increased risk of heart attacks in young adults. Dr. Saliba said another study he read looked at 2.4 million marijuana users. They found the average age of marijuana users is now 50.

“Patients who even used to come for AFITB, PAC’s, palpitations, PVC’s if they come to the hospital, there is four times increased risk of mortality,” he said.

While there are benefits for some, he asks people to be careful and to only use it if their physician, who they see regularly, prescribes it.