“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.” – Prof. Stuart Ralston, Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
With cannabis use on the rise, researchers are feeling the pressure to produce results for some of the unanswered questions about marijuana. As Professor Ralston noted, these “areas of unknown” include learning the kind of effects marijuana can have on one vitally important body system: the skeletal system.
What Did Researchers Find?
When Ralston and his team compared the bone density of heavy marijuana users to those who were moderate users or did not use marijuana at all, they found significant differences.
Based on the comparisons, researchers found that heavy marijuana use was linked to reduced bone density. The patients who used marijuana heavily (more than 5,000 times over a lifetime), had a five percent lower bone density.
Researchers go on to warn that this dip in density raises the risk of bone-related health problems. When our bones lose density, they aren’t as strong. If we lose enough bone density, we suffer from osteoporosis, making our bones brittle and fragile.
Bones may break when doing normal day-to-day activities, or easily break from a fall. And the injuries can take an abnormally long time to heal or even result in long-term and permanent problems.
Who is at Risk?
Our bones gradually begin losing mineral reserves once we hit our 30th birthday. After menopause, women tend to lose about a fifth of their bone mass over six years. Men are at risk, too. Studies show that 25 percent of men over 50 suffer from broken bones due to osteoporosis.
Now, let’s combine these osteoporosis concerns with a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control. Their data revealed that “middle aged and older adults are more likely to smoke marijuana than teens.”
This makes for a concerning mash-up of statistics. People in the age bracket most susceptible to bone issues are also the ones more likely to smoke marijuana – which we now know can also lead to bone problems. See the problem we’re facing here?
A Growing Trend
Current trends point to continued increase in marijuana use across the country. A survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2014 found that 22.2 million Americans used marijuana in the previous month. As of late 2016, around 25 states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use – a number that will most likely continue to rise.
What do you think? Are millions of Americans are putting their bones at risk?
Additional Reading: Hitting the Grass Ceiling: 6 Surprising Ways Weed is Sexist
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