HealthDay News — Heavy cannabis users have lower bone density compared to cigarette smokers, according to a new study published online Sept. 1 in The American Journal of Medicine.
The study included 170 regular cannabis users and a control group of 114 cigarette smokers. The average age of heavy cannabis users was 40 years. The average age of the cigarette smokers was 49. The research team used dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to measure bone density.
From the outset, the researchers defined heavy cannabis users as those who reported smoking cannabis on at least 5,000 occasions in their lifetime. However, the average heavy cannabis user in the study reported using the drug more than 47,000 times, the researchers noted. For someone who has used cannabis daily for 25 years, that means smoking it on average five times a day.
“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,” lead researcher Stuart Ralston, MD, a professor with the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Genomic and Experimental Medicine in the United Kingdom, said in a university news release. Moderate cannabis use — defined as an average of about 1,000 times during a lifetime — didn’t appear to have any effect on bone health, the researchers reported.
Sophocleus A, Robertson R, Ferreira NB, et al. Heavy cannabis use is associated with low bone mineral density and an increased risk of fractures. Am J Med. 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2016.07.034.