Cannabis use is connected to a higher risk of hospital or emergency care admission, claims a new study published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research.
New findings come amid a legalization trend with 19 US states having legal adult-use markets and some 36 allowing medical marijuana. Cannabis legalization is also catching up globally. Last year, Luxembourg became the first European country to legalize cannabis cultivation for personal use, while Malta became the first on the continent to officially legalize cannabis. Germany might be next in line to go fully recreational, say industry experts. More recently, Thailand became the first South-East Asian country to decriminalize marijuana.
It is important to note that a recent UNODC report confirmed that cannabis is the world’s most consumed substance. Approximately 209 million people, or 4% of the global population, used marijuana in 2020.
Cannabis Use Is Not Benign
Though usage and legalization expand around the globe, a new observational study claims that cannabis is not as benign as marketing campaigns would have us believe.
The research linked national health survey and health records data for around 35,100 Ontario residents, aged 12–65 years, between January 2009 and December 2015. Individuals self-reporting marijuana use within the past 12 months were matched to a control group of people who reported never having used marijuana, or used it once, and more than 12 months ago. Ontario is Canada’s most populous province with more than 14 million residents and is also one that is most ethnically diverse.
The results concluded that cannabis users had 22% higher chances of hospitalization and ER visits, accounting for factors like age, gender and other health issues.
What was the main cause of ER visits or hospitalization among weed users?
As per the study, acute trauma was the most common cause, accounting for 15 of those ER visits or hospitalization, followed by respiratory troubles (14%) and gastrointestinal problems (13%).
“Therefore, cannabis use is associated with increased risk for serious adverse health events and its recreational consumption is not benign,” the research states.
The study confirmed that overall chances of dying from any cause were no different between pot users and those who did not consume.
Were There Study Limits?
Yes. Being an observational study, the researchers noted that the results cannot be used to claim that marijuana use is the cause of higher rates of hospitalization and ER visits, only that there is a connection, pointing out that causation and correlation are not the same. The results could be clarified by reasons researchers didn’t account for in the study.
“Further research is needed to confirm our findings, but our results suggest that cannabis use is associated with increased risk for serious adverse health events, and therefore, its recreational consumption in the general population should be discouraged,” the authors concluded.
Researchers confirmed they were unable to include important data such as potency and quantity of marijuana consumed and the method of consumption.
"Cannabis use is not as benign and safe as some might think," said study author Nicholas Vozoris, assistant professor and clinician investigator in the division of respirology at the department of medicine at the University of Toronto told CNN.
"Our study demonstrates that the use of this substance is associated with serious negative outcomes, specifically, ED (emergency department) visits and hospitalizations.”
Studies On Medical Cannabis Provide Hope
As a result of decades of cannabis prohibition, there is a dearth of research on its health benefits and possible harms although increasingly more studies confirm this complex plant’s potential as a treatment for various types of cancer.
Just as medical studies are essential for patients to get proper treatment, it seems more research is needed on recreational cannabis in order to provide consumers with the authoritative knowledge on responsible use. Pretty much just like with any other substance.
Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Andrews on Unsplash
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