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Marijuana Use and the Danger of Bone Disease

Marijuana Use and the Danger of Bone Disease

“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.” ~Professor Stuart Ralston, Lead Researcher for the Center for Genomic and Experimental Medicine at the University of Edinburgh According to an article in the American Journal of Medicine, scientists at the University of Edinburgh performed a study that suggests that regular, heavy smoking of marijuana can cause users to suffer from decreased bone density – putting them at elevated risk of bone fracture. Heavy marijuana users’ bone density is 5% less than that of tobacco smokers who don’t consume marijuana.

Marijuana and the Risk of Osteoporosis

The study also revealed that heavy marijuana smokers will also typically have lower body weights and a lower Body Mass Index. A reduced BMI means thinner bones and an elevated osteoporosis risk.

  • One-third of all women age 50-plus will suffer an osteoporotic fracture.
  • Women over the age of 45 spend more time in the hospital because of osteoporosis than for diabetes, heart attack, or breast cancer.
  • Over 60% of osteoporotic fractures happen to women.

Male marijuana smokers don’t fare any better, because they also suffer the same decreased bone density and reduced BMI. Several studies have determined that marijuana use also lowers testosterone levels – one of the key risk factors for the development of osteoporosis.

  • 20% of men 50-plus will suffer an osteoporotic fracture.
  • Compared to 1990, the incidence of hip fractures among men is projected to rise by 310% by 2050.
  • Within 12 months following a hip fracture, 20% of men die – their mortality rate is higher than that for women.

Cross-Addictions Come into Play

There are other concerns that indicate the convoluted connection between different substance abuse disorders and other health conditions. Researchers at the City University of New York and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University discovered that people who smoke marijuana are 5 times more likely to develop an Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of osteoporosis. “Alcohol has multiple effects on calcium. The bones deteriorate because not enough calcium is getting into bones – and the body is leaching it away from bones,” says osteoporosis specialist Dr. Primal Kaur, M.D., of Philadelphia’s Temple University Health System. When you consider all the risk factors – chronic marijuana use, a greater propensity of cross-addiction to alcohol, and the natural bone loss that occurs with aging – the potential bone loss should be cause for concern. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, just 10% bone loss causes:

  • A risk of vertebral fractures that is DOUBLED.
  • A 2.5X greater risk of hip fractures.

This was the first study to ever examine bone health among regular cannabis users. “We have known for a while that the components of cannabis can affect bone cell function, but we had no idea up till now of what this might mean to people who use cannabis on a regular basis,” Professor Ralston said. SOURCES: