Cannabis excess linked to bone disease and fractures, study finds

October 12, 2016, University of Edinburgh
cannabis
Cannabis indica. Credit: Wikipedia

People who regularly smoke large amounts of cannabis have reduced bone density and are more prone to fractures, research has found.

The study also found that heavy cannabis users have a lower body weight and a reduced (BMI), which could contribute to thinning of their bones.

Researchers say this could mean heavy users of the drug are at greater risk of osteoporosis in later life.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh assessed 170 people who smoke cannabis regularly for recreational purposes and 114 non-users.

The team used a specialised x-ray technique called a DEXA scan to measure the bone density of study participants. They found that the bone density of heavy cannabis users was about five per cent lower than cigarette smokers who did not use cannabis.

Fractures were more common in heavy users compared to non-users, the study found. Moderate users, however, showed no difference from non-users.

The researchers defined heavy users as those who reported on 5000 or more occasions in their lifetime. In this study, however, the average heavy cannabis user had taken the drug more than 47,000 times. Moderate users had, on average, taken the drug about 1000 times.

Smoking cannabis is often associated with increased appetite so the researchers were surprised to find that heavy cannabis users had a lower body weight and BMI than non-users. This could be because cannabis may reduce appetite when taken in large amounts over a long period of time, the team says.

The study is the first to investigate amongst cannabis users. Researchers say further studies are needed to better understand the link between use of the drug and thinning of the bones.

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

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 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."

Explore further: Smoking cannabis linked to respiratory problems

Related Stories

Smoking cannabis linked to respiratory problems

May 19, 2015
People who smoke cannabis as little as once a week are more likely to suffer respiratory symptoms such as morning cough, bringing up phlegm, and wheezing, according to University of Otago research.

Cannabis use increases risk of premature death

April 25, 2016
Heavy cannabis use at a young age increases the risk of early death, according to the longest follow-up study to date on cannabis use. The new study, which was done by researchers at Karolinska Institutet, is published in ...

What 20 years of research on cannabis use has taught us: review

October 7, 2014
In the past 20 years recreational cannabis use has grown tremendously, becoming almost as common as tobacco use among adolescents and young adults, and so has the research evidence. A major new review in the scientific journal ...

Thousands demand legalisation of cannabis in S.Africa

May 7, 2016
Thousands of South Africans took to the streets of Cape Town on Saturday demanding a relaxation of drugs laws to allow medicinal and recreational use of cannabis.

Mixing cannabis with tobacco increases dependence risk, suggests study

July 5, 2016
Tobacco and cannabis are two of the world's most popular drugs, used respectively by 1 billion and 182 million people worldwide (World Health Organization; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). The adverse health effects ...

Researchers discover genes that influence cannabis use

April 1, 2016
Researchers from the AMC, VU University Amsterdam and Radboud University have discovered four genes that play a role in the use of cannabis. An article about their findings, co-written by colleagues from the USA and Europe, ...

Recommended for you

Living the high life: How altitude influences bone growth

June 19, 2018
High altitude is a particularly challenging environment—the terrain is physically challenging and the land has a relatively poor crop yield, so food can be sparse. Most importantly, oxygen levels are lower meaning that ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

Risks of cancer and mortality by average lifetime alcohol intake

June 19, 2018
The risk of mortality, and of developing a number of cancers, is lowest in light drinkers consuming an average of less than one drink per day across their lifetime, and the risk of some cancers increases with each additional ...

Bad habits that lead to cancer, chronic disease corrected by simple lifestyle intervention

June 19, 2018
Does this sound like someone you know? He or she spends too much time in front of screens, gets little exercise and eats a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables.

Graphic warning labels linked to reduced sugary drink purchases

June 18, 2018
Warning labels that include photos linking sugary drink consumption with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay, may reduce purchases of the drinks, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Greater levels of vitamin D associated with decreasing risk of breast cancer

June 15, 2018
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine suggest higher levels of vitamin D are associated with decreasing risk of breast cancer. Their epidemiological study is published in the June 15 online ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

baudrunner
not rated yet Oct 12, 2016
I'd take this study with a grain of salt. First of all, people who are heavy users of any drugs are rich. Rich people who use drugs enjoy cocaine in all its forms, and cocaine (and crystal meth) has been known to contribute to severe bone density problems. Their teeth become weak and rotten, and those drugs in particular rob one of appetite.

This study wold have more credibility if the subjects were given regular pee tests.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.