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If you prefer to read instead of listening to the audio, I have provided an unedited raw transcript of my conversation with Dr. Steve Ryan below.
Here are the highlights of the episode:
- We do not have a lot of clinical data on marijuana and atrial fibrillation simply because it’s so new. What we know is purely anecdotal at this point.
- Some afibbers say it works great. Others say it puts them into afib.
- There has been some research saying that smoking marijuana might lead to the development of afib and it may affect the cardiovascular system, but this is general data without a whole lot of really hard studies indicating that.
- If there is any benefit of marijuana for afib, the best form is probably CBD in edible form (but we really don’t know for sure).
- An unpublished study followed 6 million heart failure patients. Those in the group that were non-dependent on marijuana were 18% less likely to develop afib. Dependent marijuana users were 31% less likely to experience afib.
*The resources mentioned in the episode are linked to at the end of this transcript.
Travis Van Slooten: I have a special guest for this episode of the afib podcast. His name is Dr. Steve Ryan. Steve is a former afib patient who was cured of his afib back in April 1998 via catheter ablation. He’s a publisher of one of the most popular afib websites, a-fib.com and he’s the author of the best-selling book, “Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Fiding Your Cure.”
In this episode Steve and I discussed the topic of marijuana use and atrial fibrillation. We discuss recreational pot smoking versus medical marijuana and how many marijuana may or may not be beneficial for people with afib. So without further ado, let’s roll the tape…
All right, Steve, so I want to talk to you about something that it was a very interesting topic that I honestly had not thought about before. I got an email from one of my readers who wanted to know if it was safe to smoke marijuana while they had afib. First I thought this has got to be some kind of a joke because I honestly had never thought about this before, but it makes sense, you know, recreational marijuana is definitely becoming a morbid thing, it’s currently legal in nine states, and medical marijuana use is legal in 29 States. Recent poll shows that 64% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. So this is going to be become – if it hasn’t already – become a more kind of important topic. And then ironically, a week later I got another email from someone that had the same question, so I’m like, “Wow, this is really kind of a big deal.”
So I found an article on your site, Steve, that you just recently wrote about this very topic, marijuana use and afib. And in that article you had discussed a little bit about the differences of recreational marijuana and the prescription form of marijuana which is called marinol, and you kind of discussed that there was some key differences between these two. So what are the differences between the two?
Dr. Steve Ryan: Travis, I apologize that we do not have a lot of clinical data on this subject simply because it’s so new and the answers I give aren’t going to be definitive, but we’re doing the best we can with the information that we have.
The marinol is the prescription form of cannabis, and the makers of it have a blanket disclaimer saying “Don’t use this with any kind of heart problem…” you know, it’s sort of like a legal thing. They haven’t done any clinical studies on this subject to say that but they’re just protecting themselves. There have been some research saying that smoking marijuana might lead to the development of afib and it may affect the cardiovascular system, but this is general data without a whole lot of really hard studies indicating that.
Now, what I’ve done on our website is, since I don’t know enough about it to really give a definitive answer, I have asked people to tell me their experiences and they vary all across the board. Some say that this is the best thing I’ve ever taken, some people say as soon as I start smoking marijuana I get afib.
Now, the reason for that might be the differences in the pot they’re smoking or the edibles they’re taking. THC is a component found in the marijuana plant salvia. That’s what makes you feel high. There is a CBD is a component found in the marijuana plant indica. That works better to reduce pain and anxiety and induce sleep.
Now the problem is the manufacturers of pot, every state has their own little companies, and some produce CBD and a tincture and an oil, in edibles; but some just mix it all together and it’s really hard depending on the state to find something that is just CBD that you can use to get rid of anxiety and get to sleep, that kind of thing.
Now what is the best product for afib patients? Probably CBD in edible form. Smoking marijuana, unfortunately, produces a lot of problem just like smoking does because there are a lot of bad things in the cigarette smoke as there is in the marijuana smoke. So people tend to want to use marijuana for medical purposes, they’re probably better off using an edible form with more CBD and THC. Does that make any sense?
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely. I mean looking at again that article you wrote and I’ll link to it here to in the show notes so people can reference it. If they have experience smoking marijuana or taking it medically, they can surely reach out to you and share their experience with it.
But as I look at your article you do have some anecdotal stories there, and it does seem that the few that are there that have had bad experienced with it were people smoking it. And one of the gentleman that wrote, a guy named Jim, said that it was like a life saver for him, but again, he was taking the medical prescription form of it, so that seems to back up kind of what we’re talking here.
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yeah. He has a great statement. He’s the guy who is very under a lot of stress, he has his own business. He comes home at night and his brain was going a mile a minute and he couldn’t get to sleep. So he used marijuana edibles and the stress goes right away and he seems to sleep very well at night.
Just to be honest with you, I’m also some kind of like him. I’m very wound, very tight. I tend to think of all of the things about afib. I’m thinking about, you know… And to tell you the truth, I take edible marijuana and it gets me really relaxed and I go right to sleep.
Travis Van Slooten: Let’s talk about, for people that aren’t familiar with medical marijuana, I am one of those, by the way, I know nothing about this stuff which is why I find it so fascinating, but when we talk edibles, like, what is it? Is it literally like a brownie, a piece of cake? Is it like gum? I mean what is it? When you say edible, what is it?
Dr. Steve Ryan: There are a lot of different products, and unfortunately every state has their own different companies. We don’t have companies that are nation-wide to put out a standard product, but a lot of them are like a brownie that comes in a package like a cookie. It comes in like 100 mg and you cut it into 10 mg slices. To me that’s a pain, but a lot of people use that. Another way is they have product like this one product is blueberry based. They make the marijuana in with blueberries and you just take one, and one is 5 mg and I usually take two at night. Other forms, let’s see, brownies.
Travis Van Slooten: You mentioned a tincture based. That isn’t edible but that’s a different form.
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yeah, the way they do with that is they develop a tincture with CBD in an oil, and you put it on your body and let it absorb into your body, and that’s another… I’ve never tried that. I have no idea how well that works or how good it is.
Travis Van Slooten: And that tincture that isn’t something you…you don’t put it in your mouth; you put it on your skin.
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yeah, you put it on your skin. But again, I am not an expert in this field and we’re just doing the best we can with the little knowledge that we have, and I beg all the listeners to be aware that this is not something that is definitive and written in stone and this is the way to go. Everything I say may completely change when we get more information on medical marijuana.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, I think it’s just starting to explode right now. Do you know, are there any studies underway right now? Do you know of any?
Dr. Steve Ryan: Well, there was a really interesting study that just came out where they studied patients with heart failure. And what they found was that, first of all, patients with heart failure are really in deep doo-doo, we’re talking like an ejection fraction of like low or below 35%, normally is 50 to 75%. These patients, if they have really serious heart failure it’s like they’re suffocating to death. It’s a terrible way to go if you’re ill and you have congestive heart failure, you just feel terrible from what I understand. I’ve never had it.
So what they did was they followed 6 million patients in US hospitals with heart failure. About 1,200 used and were dependent on marijuana. About 2,300 used marijuana, but were not dependent on it. So the non-dependent marijuana users were 18% less likely to develop afib. And the dependent users were 31% less likely to experience afib.
Now what that means is that marijuana prevented these patients who had heart failure from developing afib. Now, why is that important? Basically a combination of heart failure and afib is a killer. One is bad, two together like that is much worse. These people are much more apt to die, and marijuana basically prevented these people from developing afib even though they had heart failure.
This is really big news because sure, now we’re applying it to heart failure, but what about normal people, would marijuana prevent them from developing afib? We don’t know.
But the study indicates that. The study would say definitely that anyone who has heart failure should consider marijuana use in some form because it does seem to prevent them from going into atrial fibrillation. Now can we go further and say everybody should smoke marijuana to prevent them from developing afib? No, we can’t say that. No, we can’t say that.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing is I suppose we don’t have the details of the study either like what form they were taking, how much they were taking every day. We don’t have that information, do we, from that study? I mean you might not have it on hand, but…
Dr. Steve Ryan: I don’t have it on hand but there would probably be some indication of that, and I’d have to look that up and maybe get back to you. Those are some good questions. But you know, in general they usually do these things it’s usually 10 mg a day. That’s a general rule of thumb. But again, I don’t really know the specifics. But people who are dependent, those are probably smokers, and they were probably doing much more smoking of pot than the other group. That worked for them and prevented them from developing afib more so than the other people.
Travis Van Slooten: Now, did that study say they were pot smokers or they were taking the medical prescription form of marijuana? Because we talked earlier that smoking was probably not the good form or as the medicals…
Dr. Steve Ryan: Since this was done between 2007 and 2014 we can assume they were smokers.
Travis Van Slooten: Okay. And that to me is kind of promising because it’s saying, of course, that leads to more questions, right? Because what’s more effective, the recreational smoking pot or the medical form of it, you know, like the edibles? I mean all these things are still, we have no idea here.
Dr. Steve Ryan: We just don’t know yet, we just don’t know. Another part of this study that was interesting was people using marijuana were 46% less likely, and dependent users 58% less likely to die in the hospital. Now that’s good news because one of the main problems with afib is you’re in the hospital so often, and that’s really good news and something that is worth looking into. By the way, this study that I’m talking about hasn’t been published yet.
Travis Van Slooten: Oh, it hasn’t, okay.
Dr. Steve Ryan: So that’s why we don’t have the information on all the details of the study. As soon as the study get published we’ll get that information.
Travis Van Slooten: That’s good to know in case someone is listening to this and they’re trying to Google this they’re not going to find it right now.
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yeah, right, I don’t think so.
Travis Van Slooten: So the bottom line with this topic then is what’s your bottom line message to someone that would pose that question that was posed to me which is, “Hey, I have afib and I smoke pot, is this good or bad?” My personal response to them Steve is kind of what you said Steve, we don’t know much of anything on this topic right now because it’s kind of so new.
And the other thing is I just told them I would approach it kind of like smoking or drinking; that it’s probably not best to do it heavily on a regular basis. And more importantly, if you smoke pot and you have an episode that’s probably an indication that’s a trigger so you should probably avoid it. But likewise if you are a moderate smoker and it seems to keep your afib episodes at bay, then it might be okay to continue to smoke. That was kind of the way I handled it. Is that kind of the way you handle that question as well?
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yes. Some of the people like John wrote to me and said, “99% of these afib attacks occurred when I’m under the influence of marijuana.”
Travis Van Slooten: Okay, that’s an obvious trigger!
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yeah, and Jonathan writes, “I tried a tiny bit of brownie for the first time since being diagnosed with afib. It was okay until about two hours later. I went into afib and a bit later came the closest I ever have to blacking out. I don’t think it’s for me anymore.”
On the other hand, Jim writes that he uses it every night and it works for him fine.
Travis Van Slooten: Yeah, so it kind of gets back to the whole what’s your trigger and what’s not. And so yeah, I think it’s all fascinating. Definitely I think this is going to become more and more of an issue as I said in the opening here with the marijuana legalization kind of sweeping across the country here. This is going to become a very hot topic, I think.
Dr. Steve Ryan: Yes, definitely.
Travis Van Slooten: Perfect. Well, Steve, I just want to thank you for your time to discuss this topic, and I look forward to talking to you in the next week’s episode. We’re going to be talking about the real costs of living with afib. So Steve, thanks again for your time.
Dr. Steve Ryan: You’re welcome.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
States Where Marijuana is Legal
FAQs Coping with A-Fib: Marijuana
A new study was released on marijuana and afib. According to the study, marijuana users appeared to have lower rates of atrial fibrillation. Half as many pot users had atrial fibrillation, about 4.5 percent, compared with 8.7 percent of nonusers. Don’t feel free to get baked just yet, though. Both the researchers and a heart expert stressed that the jury is still out on exactly what the heart risks of smoking pot might be.
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This is great! Industry know-how really helps the group grow as a whole!
I would agree smoking marijuana daily leads to the development of afib . I would like some links to these studies if possible.
Diagnosed with AFIB recently.
I am new to Afib and I see I am not alone. I will be going to the Cardiology clinic for an assessment. I have always had Heart palpitations and thought nothing of it, until the racing heart and heart beats all over the place started happening that would not go away except many hours later. I went to the hospital on my second occurrence and they brought down the heart rate and now I feel fine and an appointment has been set up for the assessment. It would be great if one of these medical pot companies comes up with a solid treatment for Afib. I am going to experiment with CBD oil plus thc and see if I have a re-occurence of Afib. So basically Afib becomes very dangerous if you have heart failure and Afib is activated? Am i interpreting that correctly? Thank you for the support group and if there is any way I can help to promote research, pleas let me know.
A-fib becomes dangerous when it goes unchecked. It can lead to strokes and/or heart failure. Blood thinners help with the first risk (stroke) and ablations help with the second risk (heart failure) by preventing the afib from occurring in the first place. Of course an ablation can also help prevent strokes because if you’re not in afib then you’re not at risk of stroke.
Hi Frank. I had an ablation with Dr. Andrea Natale in November of 2019 and discussed CBD oil with him because I was taking it at that time. He advised me to stop because the THC (even trace amounts) could create arrythmia issues. I have not had an afib episode since my ablation and I did stop taking CBD oil.
Hi Travis, as we discussed via email, I started taking CBD oil (THC free) several months ago. Initially I felt like it did take the edge off, especially if I took it before bed, and I was able to sleep very well. Now, possibly due to another emotionally stressful situation that has worsened lately, I don’t feel like the CBD does much anymore. Perhaps I’ve just built up a tolerance to it? In fact, it almost seems like now it may initiate an afib episode. So I am a bit torn as it seems like I’ve had mixed results.
In the interest of full disclosure, I sell Hempworx CBD oil. Some info on Hempworx – Hempworx is a full-spectrum CBD oil, third-party tested, organically grown in Kentucky. Also, as of March 1st, the company is US Hemp Authority Certified! This is the gold seal of approval – no water or fillers added. It really is the best quality CBD oil.
Also, the products come with a 60-day money back guarantee too – so if you think it isn’t working, you can always get your money back.
Personally, I have been taking my oil since late December, and have noticed a significant decrease in my should pain. I played roller derby for six years. My pain was at a 6 daily and now it is gone! I had trouble sleeping too, but now I sleep like a baby! I wake up and think, I didn’t even move!? My anxiety and depression have improved tremendously too!
Thanks for your reply. You’ll note I edited your comments slightly. I removed the link to your site. I generally don’t allow people to promote their products on my site without me vetting them first. If you are interested in advertising on this site or allowing a link to your site, please contact me via my contact page. I’d like to learn more about your product.
For everyone else, please take Jenny’s comments with a grain of salt. I don’t know Jenny and I’ve never heard of the brand of CBD oil she sells. I can’t vouch for her or the product she sells. She may very well be legit and her product may be legit but I have no idea. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!!! BUYER BEWARE.
Most blog owners would probably delete “promotional” comments like this but I believe in giving everyone a voice and I believe in the free flow of information. I trust my audience is smart enough to do their own research and make their own decisions accordingly!
If anyone is using this brand of CBD oil (or any brand) for atrial fibrillation, sleep, anxiety, or anything else and is having success with it, please chime in!!
I use Hempworx CBD instant coffee. Its incredible tasting and the combo of the two may seem like a contradiction, but it works by taking away the jitters you may get with caffeine but has the benefits of CBD. The oils from Worx I have tried are costlier compared to other brands, but its still a decent product. It is a pyramid marketing company however.
Since Travis and my husband, Steve Ryan, discussed A-Fib and marijuana, I’ve been looking for A-Fib patients who would share their story with us at A-Fib.com. I’d like to compile what’s working and not working for patients who try marjiuana. Would you email me with your experience? (Or email Travis and have him forward to me.)
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
P.S. We are working on the second edition of our book, Beat Your A-Fib and welcome your input.
I’ve had AFIB for 17 yrs and have had many procedures that have not helped. I’m not on medication (too many side affects for me). I tried CBD OIL on Feb 11th 2019 and I haven’t looked back. I feel 100% better!
Glad to hear that CBD oil is helping you manage your atrial fibrillation! Care to share what kind/brand of CBD oil you use and how much you use everyday?
I use a product called HempWorx (500mg). I started with five drops under my tongue morning and night for one week. Then I increased it to 10 drops morning and night for one week. Then I went to 20 drops but I felt more comfortable at 10 so I went back down to 10 drops.
Patty did you use thc free or with thc?
I so feel and been told by Mayo my anxious personality and anxiety attribute to my A/Flutter/Fib episodes. On Metropolo and blood thinners going in for a watchman to be placed at Mayo’s to eliminate the need for blood thinners. I have a clotting disorder called Von WillieBrands disease. I am looking for hope in marijuana but docs will not ok!!!!! So happy for you!!
Researchers found the helpful side of Cannabis. Cannabis is known as for addiction only but now it can be our Alternative Medicine. Cannabis now has many benefits that will be good for your health. Cannabis oil is produced by extracting the resin of the female cannabis plant using a solvent. After the resin is dissolved in the solvent, it is evaporated leaving a concentrated extract behind.
CBD Oil is a type of oil that contains CBD but does not contain THC which can give you a high efficiency. CBD Oil is from that cannabis flower. However, Cannabis now is proven that can help people to relieve pains or lessen seizure attacks. I have read many articles suggesting that cannabis has a very potent effect when it comes to pain and inflammation.
Coming on board with the topic a bit late. Even though I don’t use marijuana I wanted to say thanks for addressing this topic. I recently had 3 ablations in a 4 month time period and am now in my 5th-month postoperatively and having quite a few PAC’s/PVC’s which my EP said are all benign. Even though that was good news, the subjective experience of frequently feeling them is very disturbing and creates a low level of anxiety for me.
I started using a full spectrum, organic CBD oil with no THC that I have found very helpful. I take it at night and occasionally throughout the day if my symptoms are bad. I’ve been on it about 1 month and I find that it has softened the palps quite a bit. My EP said that it can take a while for the brain to settle from the trauma and some people are more sensitive.
I notice the CBD oil helps relax me for a better night’s sleep as well. Like you, I have more ectopics during the day if I don’t sleep well. I just wanted to share in case others are needing “to quell nerves” with post ablation thumps, flutters & skips. My best to all.
Thanks for your comments. Are you willing to share the specific brand of CBD oil you are taking – and how much you take every day?
I’d be happy to but as an FYI everyone’s canabinoid system is different. Also, I couldn’t find any reliable literature specifically on CBD use post-ablation(s).
The most ligitimate info I read was from the National Library of Medicine and then I decided to experiment.
Typical dosing can range anywhere from 8mgs-300mgs with CBD from hemp, depending on the issue.
I started with 10mgs after my 2nd ablation, but by the 3rd ablation my heart was so irritated I slowly increased my dose to 8omg/day.
Please be aware that the purest brands are more expensive but definitely (at least for me) worth the effect.
Brands I use: Organic CBD in olive oil, from hemp: Fruit of the Earth Organics. For CBD from the marijuana plant, Thrival from Leef Organics This has trace THC but is still non-psychoactive. A few drops/day worked wonders.
Thanks for sharing that information! I’m glad your protocol is working so well for you!
Travis, I believe gathering data for this drug is going to be nearly impossible. First of all, I am dead set against edibles and think that is the most dangerous way to consume pot. Secondly, with all the varying degrees or strains of weed, in 2 forms of Setivia and Indica, pinpointing success/failure will prove elusive.
Speaking from experience of taking an edible to calm me at bedtime, it was not a positive for afib. My heart was racing from 70-95 for hours and I was anything buy relaxed. I was tempted to take a rate control but with no experience for contraindications of pot, I rode it out and swore it off 3 years ago.
I would think a safer way to consume weed for those it can help, is to vape. Edible dosages are not reliable. I’m not throwing the baby out yet either, but I think there are more questions than answers right now with weed. If you were talking about CBD, I would be more apt to invest some interest in a relatively safe alternative to meds and some anecdotal success stories. I believe the percentage of those realizing benefits of weed is quite low and an A type personality.
All great points you have made. As Steve and I mentioned a couple times, this is totally new territory. It’s the wild wild west right now. It will be a long time before we have standardized marijuana products and studies on the effects of these products on afib.
However, given where things are going I am certain there will come a time where you will be able to buy brand products of marijuana just as you can buy a six pack of Miller Lite or Bud Light. There will come a time where we will have national brands of marijuana products…or at least standardized products of marijuana. Until this happens we are all left on our own to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
I will say this, most people that have responded to me privately after listening to this episode have told me marijuana has done more bad than good for their afib (i.e. it puts them in afib or has zero positive impact). Of course I don’t know what kind of marijuana they are using, how much, how often, etc.
This episode was meant to simply start the dialogue and make afibbers aware of the potential positive and negative effects of marijuana on their atrial fibrillation.
I guess we will be waiting for the good news together on weed. Actually I have a good friend in NYC who was ablated before it was popular at Stony Brook in the 90s. One and done, but could never touch a drop of booze again. However, still smokes weed like a chimney with no issues. Theres one for you.
One and done…that’s awesome! That’s interesting he can’t touch booze but he can smoke weed with no issues. Just goes to show you that we’re all wired differently.
Great article! I just wanted to comment that there is a “dark side” of pot use for some people. As a teen I smoked pot about ten times. The last time I smoked it I had a terrible panic attack and ended up in the hospital. Embarrassing, right?
That incidence triggered a very long, stressful period of my life filled with panic, uncontrolled worry and depression. My career and relationships suffered greatly. It was hell and almost broke me. It was well into my forties before I finally found help in the form of Paxil. There are others out there just like me. Please keep this in mind when on the topic. Thanks for your great efforts!!!!
Sorry to hear about your experiences with marijuana. Steve and I are certainly not implying that people should smoke marijuana or take medical marijuana to prevent afib or to help people with afib. As we both mentioned, this is such a new topic that we just don’t know enough yet.
However, we wanted to discuss the topic because more and more states are legalizing marijuana so naturally more people will be using it. Hopefully studies will begin on the affects of marijuana and afib. There are so many unanswered questions. Does it help reduce the risk of developing afib? If you have afib does it help reduce the number of episodes? One afibber on Facebook who is taking a blood thinner asked me, can she use marijuana “safely” for chronic pain? There are so many questions we need answers to!
In the meantime, as you have point out, anyone considering using marijuana to either prevent afib or prevent afib episodes should tread carefully. We don’t know yet if marijuana helps or hurts and there are many other considerations as well such as, does marijuana affect the heart in other ways, does it cause other mental and health issues, etc. Then there is the whole potential addiction aspect of smoking marijuana.
Travis, Well done it i may say so.
But a reminder: the manufacturing and ingredients of marijuana are not standardized. So one person’s experience may not apply to you. Be cautious. But if you try it, better edibles than hazards associated with smoking (tobacco or marijuana).
Thanks Patti! It was a pleasure discussing this topic with Steve!
I hope this reaches you.
I have AFIB (ablation by Dr. Andrea Natale in 2017, with LAA isolation)), and in NSR since then.
I had a total knee replacement in June this year. Although all is well with the knee, I have lost my pre-knee sleeping pattern which was to sleep like the proverbial baby. I read your article and saw the mild blueberry terra bytes. Sadly, they are made in CA(by KIVA) and do not deliver to WA where I live. I am trying to find a similar product, but want one with same dosage in the article. I am like a zombie during the day because of the lack of sleep.
I would appreciate any suggestions you might share,
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