New Study: Heavy Marijuana Users May Reduce Bone Density, Increasing The Risk Of Osteoporosis and Bone Fractures.
Marijuana (cannabis) is one of the most abused drugs in the world. It is becoming increasingly legalized in some places and as some people think that since it is legal in some places, it must be safe. Recent studies have suggested the cannabis may impair blood vessel function and increase the risk of periodontal disease. Now, a new study finds that regular heavy cannabis use may reduce bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
It has been published in American Journal Medicine, "Heavy cannabis use is associated with low bone mineral density, low BMI, high bone turnover, and an increased risk of fracture. Heavy cannabis use negatively impacts on bone health both directly and indirectly through an effect on BMI".
Prof. Stuart Ralston of the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom leads this new study.
The research team assessed 170 people who smoke cannabis regularly for recreational purposes and 114 non-users. A total of 284 adults who attended primary care centers in the U.K. between 2011-2013.
Researchers classified the heavy marijuana use as those who smoked the drug more than 5000 times over a lifetime. However, on average, heavy users in the study had smoked marijuana more than 47,000 times throughout their lifetime, while moderate users had smoked it around 1,000 times. Using an X-ray method known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), the researchers measured participants' bone mineral density. The researchers noted the correlation between heavy use and bone density.
They found that the bone density of heavy cannabis users was about 5% lower than the non-users. Fractures were more common in heavy users compared to non-users. Moderate users, however, showed no difference from non-users.
"Our research has shown that heavy users of cannabis have quite a large reduction in bone density compared with non-users, and there is a real concern that this may put them at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life" said in a statement by Prof. Stuart Ralston
Interestingly, this new study contradicts the 2005 study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research that suggests marijuana could be good for bones.
These new study findings need to do further research to investigate the underlying mechanisms between increased use and bone density. They could also include in their further research the effects of this study on the regular users of cannabis.