Heavy cannabis use linked to thin bones and low weight, despite its ‘munchies’ reputation

Scientists say there is ‘a real concern’ that regular users are at ‘increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life’

Marijuana use is increasingly being legalised around the world
Marijuana use is increasingly being legalised around the world

Despite its reputation for causing “the munchies”, heavy use of cannabis has been linked to a reduction in body weight and thin bones that are more likely to break, according to a new study.

Researchers at Edinburgh University tested 170 regular recreational users of the drug and 114 non-users.

Scans of their bones showed heavy users – who had smoked cannabis more than 47,000 times in their life – had a bone density that was five per cent lower than cigarette smokers.

They also had a higher rate of fractures, although this effect was not seen in moderate users, defined as those who had taken cannabis an average of 1,000 times.

Lead researcher Professor Stuart Ralston, of Edinburgh University’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 bone density compared with non-users.

“There is a real concern that this may put them at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life.”

A statement about the research issued by the university said smoking cannabis was “often associated with increased appetite so the researchers were surprised to find that heavy cannabis users had a lower body weight and body-mass index than non-users”.

“This could be because cannabis may reduce appetite when taken in large amounts over a long period of time,” it added.

The study, which was funded by Arthritis Research UK, was published in the American Journal of Medicine.

Cannabis has also been found to have beneficial effects on human health.

The government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concluded that cannabidiol has a “restoring, correcting or modifying” effect on “physiological functions”, The Independent revealed.

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