Low BMD, Increased Fracture Risk With Heavy Cannabis Use

HealthDay News — Heavy cannabis users have lower bone density compared with cigarette smokers, according to a new cross-sectional study recruited from primary care settings in the UK published 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 absorptiometryv (DXA) to measure bone mineral density (BMD).

From the outset, the researchers defined heavy cannabis users as those who reported smoking cannabis on at least 5000 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 5 times a day.

“Our research has shown that heavy users of cannabis have quite a large reduction in bone density compared with nonusers, 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 1000 times during a lifetime—did not appear to have any effect on bone health, the researchers reported.

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  1. Sophocleous A, Robertson R, Ferreira NB, McKenzie J, Fraser WD, Ralston SH. Heavy cannabis use is associated with low bone mineral density and an increased risk of fractures. Am J Med. 2016 Sept 1. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2016.07.034 [Epub ahead of print].