A recent survey on the effects of prolonged recreational use of marijuana seems to yield mostly positive results (or at least not a litany of negative results), unlike the notion that many have had. While many conclusions have indicated that its use has immense adverse effects, the study on a group of 1,037 New Zealanders (all born in Dunedin in 1972 and 1973) that have been followed from their birth until age 38 reports otherwise. The subjects were evaluated based upon 20 years of marijuana use from the ages 18 to 38.
The research was conducted at Arizona State University under the leadership of ASU Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Madeline Meier. This same group conducted a famous research on the same study group which showed that there can be serious adverse effects on the brain in youngsters using marijuana before turning 18, including lower IQ, an effect that wasn’t shown in the latest study for those over 18 years of age.
Meier et al. assessed frequency of cannabis use and cannabis dependence in study participants at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 years. Laboratory measures were collected and analyzed on physical health (periodontal health, lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic health), as well as self-reported physical health, at ages 26 and 38 years.
Surprisingly enough, the researchers said that the worst of effects was only on the teeth, with cannabis users generally having poorer periodontal health compared to peers. The worse condition of teeth was even true when tobacco use was considered.
Overall, the study concluded that cannabis use, aside from the periodontal issue, “is not associated with other physical health problems in early midlife.” In fact, prolonged use of cannabis was linked to the lowering of Body Mass Index as well as the provision of better HDL cholesterol.
Nevertheless, there is no dispute that heavy marijuana does not have health risks, such as brain damage on teenagers. Another caveat to the study is the possibility that other risks of negative effects could show up later in life. However, according to Dr. Kevin Hill, a marijuana addiction expert, the risks are not as many as previously described.
The study was recently published in JAMA Psychiatry.
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