The Australian surgeon Dr. David Soon has reported the country’s first case of cannabis arteritis at the Annual Scientific Congress in Brisbane, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald. Cannabis arteritis is a disease in which habitual cannabis use creates a buildup of plaque around the arteries, causing a lesion on the arteries.

In the case of Dr. Soon’s patient, a 26 year-old man who consumed up to a gram of weed per day, this biological malfunction created a lesion on his big toe.

“Cannabis usage can cause the periphery blood vessel to tighten up and therefore increasing the resistance, and therefore increasing the amount of plaque depositing around the arteries, and therefore eventually narrowing the artery,” Dr Soon told Australian radio station 3AW.

The disease can cause complications that result in limb amputations, but luckily in this unlucky stoner’s case, it only resulted in him having to cut back on the weed (bummer), having a balloon catheter inserted (big bummer), and having to take aspirin for the rest of his life (meh).

Is this disease for real? Why haven’t I ever heard of it?

Great questions. It seems it’s pretty real, but even more rare. Though few cases have ever been diagnosed, the disease has been talked about for over 50 years. It’s seen most often in men and most often manifests as a lesion on the toe.

As a medical article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information puts it:

“Arteritis due to Cannabis indica was first reported in 1960, and the role of this drug as a risk factor for arteritis was confirmed in several subsequent publications. A 38-year-old smoker with no previous contributory medical history except for long-standing cannabis abuse developed a dry necrotic lesion of the left big toe… Remarkably, the development of arteritis paralleled cannabis abuse. The course was slowly favourable after weaning from the drug…”

So, it is real, in that it’s been diagnosed at least a handful of times. Then again, so was female hysteria. But it’s not too likely you’re going to contract it. C.A. is a close cousin of Buerger’s disease, a similar thrombosis-related disease that occurs with similar infrequency in tobacco users.

“Although this is a rare condition, this illness should be known and made aware to physicians around Australia,” Dr. Soon said in a statement. “Due to the increase in cannabis usage and the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, awareness of this condition is important and may become a growing problem in the future.”

Too bad there’s a cannabis-related illness out there, but you’re still more likely to get sick from the burgers you eat or the beer you drink than from smoking weed. Best just to take a dab and not worry about it.


Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot