Researchers warn of reduced bone density with heavy cannabis use
Possible negative effects of excessive cannabis use have already been discussed in the past. Now scientists from the University of Edinburgh have found in a recent study that the regular use of cannabis attacks the bone substance, which is associated with an increased risk of fractures and the later development of osteoporosis.
"People who regularly smoke large amounts of cannabis have reduced bone density and are more prone to fractures," said the University of Edinburgh. The current study also demonstrated that regular cannabis use is associated with lower body weight and a reduced Body Mass Index (BMI), which could contribute to further thinning of the bones. The study results were published in the specialist journal "The American Journal of Medicine".
Some subjects had used cannabis more than 47,000 times
For their study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh examined 170 volunteers who regularly smoked cannabis in their free time and 114 cigarette smokers who did not use cannabis. Cannabis users were divided into two groups: moderate users and strong users. Subjects who had smoked cannabis less than 5,000 times in their lives were defined as moderate consumers. All study participants who had already used cannabis more often were assigned to the group of strong users. Among the moderate users, the average consumption so far has been around 1,000 times in their life, while among the strong users there were also subjects who have already used cannabis more than 47,000 times, the scientists report.
Bone density for strong users is around five percent lower
Using special X-ray technology (DEXA scan), the research team led by Professor Stuart Ralston from Edinburgh University determined the bone density of the study participants. Strong cannabis users showed a lower mineral density in the hip bones and the spinous process of the spinal bones. Overall, the bone density of heavy cannabis users was about five percent lower than that of the control group of cigarette smokers, the researchers report. In addition, the strong consumers had broken their bones more than twice as often.
Increased risk of osteoporosis?
"Our research has shown that heavy cannabis users have a fairly large reduction in bone density compared to non-users, and there is reasonable concern that this will increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life," summarizes Prof. Ralston put the study results together. In contrast, the moderate users showed no difference to the non-users. The study is the first to examine bone health in cannabis users and more research is now needed to better understand the link between drug use and reduced bone density.
Lower body weight and lower BMI
To their own surprise, the scientists also found that heavy cannabis users tended to have a lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) than non-users. Although cannabis use is often associated with an increased appetite, there has been a significant reduction in body weight among the strong users. "This could be because cannabis can reduce appetite if taken in large quantities over a long period of time," the researchers suspect. (fp)