Study: Regular cannabis use lowers the bone density

researchers warn of reduced bone density in heavy cannabis use
In the past, possible negative effects of excessive cannabis use have been discussed. Now, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found in a recent study that the regular use of cannabis attacks the bone, which is associated with an increased risk of fractures and the subsequent development of osteoporosis.

"People who regularly smoke large amounts of cannabis have reduced bone density and are more susceptible to fractures," according to the Edinburgh University Communication. Furthermore, the current study found that regular cannabis use is associated with lower body weight and Body Mass Index( BMI), which could further thinning the bones. The study results were published in the journal "The American Journal of Medicine".

Excessive cannabis use has a significant impact on bone density and may increase the risk of osteoporosis.(Image: zix777 / fotolia.com) Excessive cannabis use has a significant impact on bone density and may increase the risk of osteoporosis.(Photo: zix777 / fotolia.com)

Some subjects had used cannabis more than 47,000 times


For their study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh examined 170 volunteers who routinely smoked cannabis in their free time and 114 cigarette smokers who did not consume cannabis. The cannabis consumers were divided into two groups: moderate users and strong users. As moderate consumers, subjects were defined who had previously smoked cannabis less than 5,000 times in their lives. All study participants who had already used cannabis more frequently were assigned to the group of strong users. Among the moderate users, average consumption has been around 1,000 times in their lifetime, while among the strong users there have also been subjects who have taken cannabis more than 47,000 times, the researchers report.

Bone Density by 5% for Strong Users
Using a special X-ray technique( DEXA-Scan), the research team led by Professor Stuart Ralston from the University of Edinburgh determined the bone density of the study participants. Strong cannabis users showed a lower mineral density in the hip bone and spinous process of the spinal column. Overall, the bone density of heavy cannabis consumers was about five percent lower than that of the control group of cigarette smokers, the researchers report. In addition, the strong consumers had already more than twice as often suffered a fracture.

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Increases Osteoporosis Risk?
"Our research has shown that heavy users of cannabis have a fairly large reduction in bone density compared to non-users, and there is reasonable concern that this may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and later-life fractures,"Prof. Ralston summarizes the study results. For the moderate users, however, no difference to the non-users has shown. The study is the first bone health survey among cannabis users and further research is needed to better understand the link between drug use and reduced bone density.

Lower body weight and lower BMI
To their own surprise, scientists also found that strong cannabis users tended to have lower body weight and body mass index( BMI) than non-users. Although cannabis use is often associated with an increased appetite, it has clearly shown a reduced body weight among the strong users."This may be because cannabis can reduce appetite when taken in large quantities over a long period of time," researchers suggest.(fp)

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