cannabis arteritis symptoms

Cannabis arteritis: Australian man diagnosed with marijuana-related disease that can cause loss of limb

Man will have to take aspirin as a blood thinner for the rest of his life

Article bookmarked

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

An Australian man who smokes up to a gram of cannabis per day has narrowly escaped amputation after becoming the first in the country to be diagnosed with a rare disease linked to cannabis use.

After an ulcer on his toe failed to heal, the man consulted Frankston Hospital in Melbourne, where he was diagnosed with cannabis arteritis, an extremely rare disease which causes a build-up of plaque around the arteries, thereby decreasing blood flow to the limbs.

The patient, who has not been identified, was treated with a balloon angioplasty, where a collapsed balloon, known as a balloon catheter, is placed in the area which is constricted in order to inflate it to a healthy size.

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

1 /10 Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

Having been reclassified in 2009 from a Class C to a Class B drug, cannabis is now the most used illegal drug within the United Kingdom. The UK is also, however, the only country where Sativex – a prescribed drug that helps to combat muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and contains some ingredients that are also found in cannabis – is licensed as a treatment

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

North Korea

Although many people believe the consumption of cannabis in North Korea to be legal, the official law regarding the drug has never been made entirely clear whilst under Kim Jong Un’s regime. However, it is said that the North Korean leader himself has openly said that he does not consider cannabis to be a drug and his regime doesn’t take any issue with the consumption or sale of the drug


Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


In the Netherlands smoking cannabis is legal, given that it is smoked within the designated ‘smoking areas’ and you don’t possess more than 5 grams for personal use. It is also legal to sell the substance, but only in specified coffee shops

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

Although in some states of America cannabis has now been legalised, prior to the legalisation, police in the U.S. could make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds, according to US News and World Report. The country also used to spend around $3.6 billion a year enforcing marijuana law, the American Civil Liberties Union notes

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


Despite cannabis being officially illegal in Spain, the European hotspot has recently started to be branded, ‘the new Amsterdam’. This is because across Spain there are over 700 ‘Cannabis Clubs’ – these are considered legal venues to consume cannabis in because the consumption of the drug is in private, and not in public. These figures have risen dramatically in the last three years – in 2010 there were just 40 Cannabis Clubs in the whole of Spain. Recent figures also show that in Catalonia alone there are 165,000 registered members of cannabis clubs – this amounts to over 5 million euros (£4 million) in revenue each month

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


In December 2013, the House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill legalizing and regulating the production and sale of the drug. But the president has since postponed the legalization of cannabis until to 2015 and when it is made legal, it will be the authorities who will grow the cannabis that can be sold legally. Buyers must be 18 or older, residents of Uruguay, and must register with the authorities

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


Despite the fact that laws prohibiting the sale and misuse of cannabis exist and is considered a habit only entertained by lower-income groups, it is very rarely enforced. The occasional use of cannabis in community gatherings is broadly tolerated as a centuries old custom. The open use of cannabis by Sufis and Hindus as a means to induce euphoria has never been challenged by the state. Further, large tracts of cannabis grow unchecked in the wild

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the use of all drugs, and started treating drug users as sick people, instead of criminals. However, you can still be arrested or assigned mandatory rehab if you are caught several times in possession of drugs

Where cannabis is and isn’t legal

Puerto Rico

Although the use of cannabis is currently illegal, it is said that Puerto Rico are in the process of decriminalising it


Where cannabis is and isn’t legal


Cannabis is grown in the wild and has been used to treat conditions such as gout and malaria. But, officially the substance is illegal to consume, possess and sell

He will also have to take aspirin, a blood thinner, for the rest of his life, according to reports in the Sunday Morning Herald.

Smoking cannabis can cause blood vessels to tighten, which increases resistance and contributes to an increasing amount of plaque building up around the arteries, thereby narrowing the artery itself.

Read more

Cannabis arteritis occurs when the constriction of arteries reduces blood flow to the affected limbs, which can lead to death of cells, called necrosis. Severe cases of necrosis can lead to necessary amputation.

Very similar symptoms can be seen in patients suffering from Bueger’s disease, which is strongly linked to tobacco use.

Although fewer than 100 cases of the disease have ever been recorded, Dr Soon, of the Royal College of Australasian Surgeons, said medical professionals should still remain alert.

“Due to the increase in cannabis usage and the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, awareness of the condition is important and may become a growing problem in the future,” he told the Annual Scientific Congress.

1 /1 Man treated for cannabis-related disease that can lead to amputation

Man treated for cannabis-related disease that can lead to amputation

Man will have to take aspirin as a blood thinner for the rest of his life

INDY/ LIFE newsletter
Be inspired with the latest lifestyle trends every week

Already have an account? Log in here


Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

About The Independent commenting

Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles. You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment.

The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates.

Delete Comment
Report Comment

Join the discussion.

Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.

  • You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully
  • Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable
  • Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties
  • We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification

You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

Man will have to take aspirin as a blood thinner for the rest of his life

Cannabis arteritis

Naoual El Omri

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

Rachid Eljaoudi

2 Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco

Fadwa Mekouar

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

Mohammed Jira

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

Youssef Sekkach

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

Taoufik Amezyane

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

Driss Ghafir

1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco


Cannabis is the most consumed psychoactive substance by young people. Chronic use of cannabis can lead to cannabis arteritis, which is a very rare peripheral vascular disease similar to Buerger’s disease. It is affecting young adults, especially men, consuming cannabis. A 27-year old woman, with no particular past medical history except for long-term use of cannabis and tobacco developed a digital necrosis in the left hand. She denied using other illicit drugs. Doppler ultrasound examination of the upper limbs was unremarkable. Toxicological analysis revealed the presence of cannabis in both biological fluid and hair strand. Despite medical treatment, cessation of the cannabis and tobacco consumption and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, an amputation of necrotic parts was then required. This case shows the prolonged use of cannabis could be a risk factor for young adult arteritis. Faced with a rapidly progressive arteritis occurring in young adult, the physician should consider the history of use of cannabis. Hair analysis can be useful for confirmation of the chronic consumption of drugs.


Cannabis is the most widely used drug worldwide. It is made from the dried buds and flowers of the female Cannabis sativa plant. The major psychoactive component of marijuana is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ9-THC. Cannabis is smoked as hand-rolled cigarettes, pipes, cigars. It can also be mixed with other drugs such tobacco or cocaine [1]. Chronic abuse of cannabis may have many important health disorder such as psychiatric, respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Cannabis arteritis (CA) is a very rare peripheral vascular disease similar to Buerger’s disease. It is presented as a peripheral necrosis most often of the lower limbs [2, 3]. Only about 50 confirmed cases between 1960 and 2008 were published in literature and most of them was men with CA in the lower limbs [4]. In this work, we report a case of a young women cannabis smoker with digital necrosis.

Patient and observation

A 27-year old woman, Moroccan, consulted for a digital necrosis in the left hand ( Figure 1 ). She is depressed but she has no family history of cardiovascular diseases including thrombosis. She had smoked approximately 20 cigarettes and five to ten cannabis hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) daily since the age of 15. She denied using other illicit drugs. Two weeks before, index, middle and ring finger of the left hand became bluish and extremely painful, and within days a necrotic lesion developed at the site of wounds. Clinical examination revealed a woman of healthy appearance and afebrile. Her weight was 48Kg, height 158 cm (BMI 22 Kg/m 2 ) and blood pressure 110/60 mmHg. The rest of the examination findings are within normal limits except for dry necrosis of three fingers. Doppler ultrasound examination of the upper limbs and the supra-aortic trunks revealed normal arteries with normal blood flow. Magnetic resonance imaging and conventional angiography were not performed for our patient. Laboratory investigation revealed normal values for hematological parameters. Testing for thrombophilia including proteins S and C, antithrombin III, resistance to activated C protein, circulating anticoagulant antibody, anticardiolipid, b2 glycoprotein-1, homocysteinaemia were all in the normal range. Factor II and factor V Leiden mutation were normal. Cryoglobulins, polycythaemia and monoclonal gammopathy proved negative. Blood glucose, calcium and lipids were normal. Toxicological analysis using immunological methods revealed the presence of benzodiazepine, cannabis and cocaine. A wide screening of xenobiotics was made on whole blood and urine after liquid-liquid extraction were performed by liquid chromatography- tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-TQD, Waters). This screening confirmed the presence of benzodiazepine (bromazepam), amisulpiride, bupropion, Δ9-THC and cocaine with its major metabolites: Benzoylecgonin and ecgonine-methyl-ester. To verify the chronic use of drug, a LCMSMS hair analysis for our patient was suggested. She agreed to the analysis and a strand of hair (12 cm) was cut from the vertex region of the scalp. For the segmental analysis, the hair sample was divided into two segments of 6 cm each. The hair analysis revealed the presence of cannabis metabolites in the two segments; the means of the concentrations were as follow: Δ9-THC (3.2 ng/mg), cannabinol (0.35ng/mg), cannabidiol (0.27 ng/mg). However, cocaine was not detected. Cannabis and tobacco consumption was immediately stopped. Treatment with anticoagulants, prostaglandin, acetylsalicylic acid and hyperbaric oxygen therapy was started. The treatment stopped the necrosis evolution, but no regression was observed. An amputation of necrotic parts was then required.


We report a case of young woman presenting a digital necrosis in the left hand, which seems to be strikingly related to the long term abuse of cannabis. Other causes of arterial diseases (e.g. occupational exposure to toxic agents, ergotism, thrombophilia, embolic heart disease, connective tissue diseases, inflammatory arteritis or ergotism) were excluded. Using the hair analysis, we also excluded other toxic arteriopathies encountered in drug addicts such as those due to cocaine, amphetamines or ergotamine, but we confirmed the chronic use of cannabis. Cocaine found in urine seem to be related to an occasional use. The use of hair analysis as a matrix for drug testing may help document chronic illicit drugs use. It is especially useful in situations when blood and urine specimens have not been collected on time. Cannabis use results in an altered mood. The psychoactive chemical compound is Δ9-THC, but more than 60 cannabinoids were characterized. Chronic cannabis use could also lead to arteritis. Cannabis arteritis was first reported by Sterne and Ducastaing in 1960 [5]. It is a very rare peripheral vascular disease similar to Buerger’s disease and only a few cannabis users develop this complication, but the number is certainly underestimated. Both heavy and lighter users could develop the CA. This fact is probably due to the variable concentration of cannabis in the self-prepared products [6]. The pathogenesis of the CA is complex, Δ9-THC has a vasoconstrictor effect proved in animal studies. This effect may be mediated, in part, through a tyramine-like action on adrenergic nerve endings [7]. Arsenic may also be implicated in the pathogenesis of the CA because of tobacco co-intoxication. It seems to be a factor of vascular thrombosis and inflammatory arteritis. Arsenic could inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor and induce endothelial cell apoptosis. This theory would explain the decrease in prevalence of Buerger’s disease with the refinement of tobacco. Finally a synergistic noxious effect of tobacco and cannabis seems likely [8]. Treatment of CA is for the patient to stop immediately and definitively cannabis and tobacco consumption. Anticogulant and vasodilatator drug (buflomedil, prostaglandins) can be given in the acute phase, followed by platelet aggregation inhibitor. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also be used [9]. Patient may have complete revascularization with treatment but advanced stages of necrosis may require amputation.


Cannabis is the most widely illicit drug used in the world. If the acute toxicity of cannabis is low, chronic use can lead to serious complication such as CA. This condition is a serious peripheral vascular disease affecting young adults consuming cannabis. The risk of amputation is high if not treated. The diagnosis of CA should be suspected in of all young adults with peripheral necrosis.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interest.

Authors’ contributions

El Omri Naoual: initiator, managing consultant, manuscript writing and corresponding author. El Jaoudi Rachid: carried out the toxicological analysis and manuscript writing. Mekouar Fadoua: managing consultant, manuscript writing. Amezyane Taoufik: carried out Doppler echocardiography and helped to draft the manuscript. Jira Mohammed, Sekkach Youssef and Ghafir Driss: helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Cannabis arteritis Naoual El Omri 1 Internal Medicine Department, Mohammed V Military Teaching Hospital, Rabat, Morocco Rachid Eljaoudi 2 Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology, ]]>