An international team of investigators from the United States and New Zealand assessed the relationship between persistent cannabis use after the age of 18 and overall health at age 38 in a cohort of 1,037 individuals. Specifically, researchers assessed whether long-term cannabis use negatively impacted the following domains: periodontal health, lung function, systemic inflammation, metabolic syndrome, waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride level, blood pressure, glycated hemoglobin level, body mass index, and self-reported health.
Researchers reported that long-term cannabis use was only associated with health declines in one domain (periodontal health) after investigators controlled for potential confounding variables, such as concurrent tobacco use. By contrast, authors acknowledged, “[C]annabis use was associated with slightly better metabolic health (smaller waist circumference, lower body mass index, better lipid profiles, and improved glucose control)” – findings that are consistent with prior studies.
“In general, our findings showed that cannabis use over 20 years was unrelated to health problems early in mid-life,” authors concluded. “[C]annabis users were generally no worse off than nonusers on almost all health indexes.”
The JAMA paper is one of the first longitudinal studies to characterize the long-term health effects of persistent cannabis use using objective, laboratory-based indexes and examinations.
Full text of the study, “Associations between cannabis use and physical health problems early in midlife: A longitudinal comparison of persistent cannabis vs tobacco users,” appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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