Cannabis Excess Can Increase Risk of Osteoporosis Later in Life

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • Heavy cannabis users are highly prone to fractures as it reduces bone mineral density.
  • Bone density of heavy cannabis users reduced by 5 percent when compared to those who smoked cigarettes without cannabis.
  • Heavy cannabis users are at high risk for osteoporosis later in life, say researchers at The University of Edinburgh.
Cannabis Excess Can Increase Risk of Osteoporosis Later in Life

Studies have shown that regular use of cannabis can have negative health effects such as stroke, memory problems, hallucinations, anxiety and problems with coordination. Now, researchers from The University of Edinburgh have found that heavy cannabis users are at high risk of fracture and osteoporosis due to reduced bone density.

‘People who smoke large amounts of cannabis have a low body weight, reduced body mass index and low bone mineral density, which contribute to fractures and osteoporosis.’
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Cannabis is also known as marijuana, weed, dope. Its use is more common among young people, especially middle and high school students.

Cannabis and Risk of Bone Fractures

Researchers from The University of Edinburgh conducted a study to investigate bone health amongst cannabis users. The study involved 170 people who smoke cannabis regularly for recreational purposes and 114 individuals who do not smoke cannabis.

Heavy cannabis users are those who smoked cannabis on 5000 or more occasions in their lifetime. But in this study, the average heavy cannabis user had smoked more than 47,000 times. Moderate cannabis users had smoked about 1000 times. A specialized X-ray called DEXA scan was used to measure the bone density of the study participants.

The scans showed that the bone density of heavy cannabis users was five percent lower than smokers who did not use cannabis. The study suggests that people who smoke large amounts of cannabis have reduced bone density, contributing to osteoporosis later in life. Bone fractures were more common among heavy cannabis users compared to non-users. However, moderate cannabis users showed no difference from non-users.

Cannabis Linked to Low Body Mass Index

Previously conducted studies have shown that cannabis use can increase appetite. In the current study, the researchers found that heavy cannabis users had a lower body weight and reduced body mass index (BMI) than non-users. Researchers said that cannabis could also reduce appetite when taken in large amounts over an extended period of time.

Lead researcher Professor Stuart Ralston, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, said, "We have known for a while that the components of cannabis can affect bone cell function, but we had no idea up until now of what this might mean to people who use cannabis on a regular basis.

"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."

The researchers hope to conduct further studies to understand the link between use of the cannabis and thinning of the bones.

The study funded by Arthritis Research UK is published in the American Journal of Medicine.

Global Statistics of Cannabis Usage
  • About 158.8 million people around the world use cannabis
  • Nearly 94 million people in the US have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime
  • Nine percent of cannabis users become addicted
  • Cannabis is the second most commonly used substance after alcohol

Harmful Effects of Cannabis
  • A single joint of cannabis could damage the lungs more than cigarettes
  • Cannabis use is linked to depression, schizophrenia, and suicidal thoughts.
  • It increases the risk of developing cancers of the testicle, prostate and cervix.
  • Damages nerve cells in the brain, affecting memory
  • Reduces coordination and affects IQ
  • Disrupts menstrual cycle in women
  • Reduces sperm quality and lowers testosterone levels

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Source: Medindia

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