Frequent cannabis use linked to low bone density and more fractures

Regularly smoking large amounts of cannabis can lead to lower bone density and higher risk of fractures, say researchers from the University of Edinburgh. Their study, which is the first to link bone health to cannabis use, found that heavy cannabis smokers tend to have five per cent less bone density than cigarette-smoking non-users. High frequency users were also more likely to get fractures, although this was not true for moderate users.

“There is a real concern that this may put [people] at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life”, says Professor Stuart Ralston from the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine.

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weaker and more likely to break. Wrist, hip, and spinal fractures are more common in people with osteoporosis.

The researchers defined heavy users as having reported smoking cannabis at least 5,000 times in their lifetime, while moderate users averaged about 1,000 times.

The study also found that heavy cannabis users tend to weigh less than non-users. Researchers suggest that this may be because long-term use of large quantities of cannabis can lead to reduced appetite.

Cannabis is the most widely-used drug globally, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In the UK, it is illegal to possess, sell, or use the plant.

The SNP recently backed a motion to decriminalise cannabis for medical use in Scotland, though this has been rejected by the Home Office: “This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis or devolve drug control”, said a Home Office spokesperson.

Image: Lode Van de Velde

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