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Heavy cannabis use linked to bone thinning

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People who regularly smoke large amounts of cannabis may face a greater risk of osteoporosis in later life.

A study at the University of Edinburgh has shown that heavy cannabis users have reduced bone density and are more prone to fractures. They also tend to have a lower body weight and a reduced body mass index (BMI), which could contribute to thinning of their bones.

The research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, included 170 people who smoke cannabis regularly for recreational purposes and a control group of 114 cigarette smokers. The average heavy cannabis user had taken the drug more than 47,000 times, while moderate users had taken the drug about 1,000 times on average.

A specialised x-ray technique called a DEXA scan revealed that the bone density of heavy cannabis users was about 5% lower than that of cigarette smokers who did not use cannabis.

The results also showed that fractures were more common in heavy users compared to non-users, although there was no difference between moderate users and non-users.

Lead researcher Professor Stuart Ralston, of the University of Edinburgh´s Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, commented:

“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 bone density 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.”

The study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, is the first to investigate bone health amongst cannabis users.

Further studies are needed to better understand the link between use of the drug and thinning of the bones, the University of Edinburgh said.


http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343 (16)30851-8/abstract