It sounds like fear-mongering made up by the anti-drug zealots at the Daily Mail - but it turns out that cannabis arteritis, a disease linked with daily cannabis smoking that can result in sufferers losing limbs - is indeed a real thing - albeit a very, very rare one.
A 26-year-old man from Australia was reportedly recently diagnosed with cannabis arteritis after an ulcer on his toe refused to heal - and doctors at Frankston Hospital in Melbourne, AU linked the conditions to the man's one-gram-per-day cannabis consumption. According to a statement released by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, his was the first case ever diagnosed in Australia.
Symptoms of cannabis arteritis strongly resemble those of Buerger's disease, a condition strongly associated with tobacco smoking that causes pains in the legs, feet, arms and hands which stop when you're at rest, Inflammation just below the skin, extremities that turn pale in the cold, and painful, open sores. Cannabis arteritis is reportedly more common among men, with most cases presenting as necrotic wounds on their toes.
Sounds scary - but the average consumer probably doesn't have to worry. Of the estimated 5.4 million users who smoke marijuana almost daily in the United States alone, and approximately 158.8 million people who use marijuana worldwide, there have been only 50 cases of cannabis arteritis since the condition was discovered in 1960, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. Almost all of those cases occurred in Europe.
"Although this is a rare condition, this illness should be known and made aware to physicians around Australia," Dr. David Soon said in the statement to the RACS. "One important observation from these cases is that the patient has better prognosis upon cessation of cannabis consumption."
"Due to the increase in cannabis usage and the legalization of medicinal cannabis, awareness of this condition is important and may become a growing problem in the future."