Long-term marijuana use may actually not be so bad for your health, according to a new study.
In a long-term study that traced the health of 1,037 New Zealanders — all either marijuana smokers, tobacco smokers, or abstainers — from birth to age 38, researchers assessed over a dozen physical health issues and found that only a higher risk of gum disease was associated with long-term marijuana use — even when controlling for other factors.
The researcher’s findings, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that among the 38-year-olds surveyed, 55.6% of people who had smoked marijuana regularly for 15 or 20 years had gum disease, while only 13.5% of the 38-year-olds who had never used marijuana and don’t smoke cigarettes, had the same disease.
To draw their comparisons among participants, researchers assessed physical health issues like lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. The also study controlled for factors like socioeconomic status as well as self-reported brushing and flossing habits, according to LiveScience.
“In general, our findings showed that cannabis use over 20 years was unrelated to health problems in early midlife,” the study found. “Across several domains of health (periodontal health, lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic health), clear evidence of an adverse association with cannabis use was apparent for only one domain, namely, periodontal health.”
Other than gum disease, marijuana smokers, unlike the cigarette smokers, didn’t show any worse physical health than the non-smokers.
“We can see the physical health effects of tobacco smoking in this study, but we don’t see similar effects for cannabis smoking,” Madeline Meier, an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University, and the lead author on the study told Duke Today.
In some instances, the marijuana smokers actually showed better health outcomes than the non-smokers. Some of the marijuana smokers had better metabolic health — that is, smaller waist sizes and lower body mass indexes — than the abstainers.
The cigarette smokers, on the other hand, were worse off.
The tobacco smokers demonstrated decreased lung function, systemic inflammation, and a general “health decline,” between the ages of 26 and 38, according to the study.
But the study’s authors also caution against using the results of their study to smoke as much marijuana as you want.
“We need to recognise that heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences, but overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study,” Avshalom Caspi, a a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and a co-author on the study said in a statement per Live Science.
Meir’s study is unique because it uses data over a long period time, whereas other studies have focused on single instances, according to the Washington Post.
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