Regular Marijuana Users Are Twice as Likely to Break a Bone

OCTOBER 20, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
rheumatology, pain management, chronic pain, marijuana, cannabis, weed, drugs, osteoporosis, fractures, broken bone

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but so could regular cannabis use, according to a study from The University of Edinburgh.

In the first study to look at bone health in marijuana users, it was discovered that people who regularly smoke large amounts of marijuana are more likely to suffer fractures due to reduced bone density. This also means that they could have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis down the line.

“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,” lead researcher, Stuart Ralston, MD, from the school’s Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, said in a news release.

Using a specialized x-ray technique called a DEXA scan, the researchers were able to examine bone density in users and non-users. The 200 smokers were divided into moderate users (56 people) and heavy users (144 people) – which was defined as having smoked less or more than 5,000 times in their lives. These groups were compared to 114 people who only smoked cigarettes, not marijuana.

Heavy marijuana smokers had a 5% lower total hip bone and spine bone mineral densities than the cigarette smokers. In addition, they had more fractures (rate ratio = 2.17), unlike the moderate marijuana smokers who did not show a difference.

“Multiple regression analysis revealed that heavy cannabis use was an independent predictor of spine bone mineral density, accounting for 5.4% of the variance, and total hip bone mineral density, accounting for 5.8% of the variance, but mediation analysis suggested that the effect on spine bone mineral density was indirect and mediated through low body mass index,” the team explained in The American Journal of Medicine.

Therefore, since heavy smokers typically have lower body weight and body mass index (BMI), that could contribute to their thinning bones. This was a surprising piece of the study, Ralston said. Cannabis has long been associated with an increased appetite, but using large amounts for a long period of time can actually suppress appetite.

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