A Study Claims Long-Term Weed Smoking Lowers Your Bone Density

A few months ago, it was stoners' gums, and now researchers have found a correlation between cannabis use and weak bones.

by VICE Staff
Oct 15 2016, 3:30pm

Photo by Heath Alseike via

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

First, they came for your mouths. A couple of months ago, we wrote about a study that found that, along with possible IQ issues and and psychotic illnesses, long-term regular cannabis use could also leave you with two gammy pairs of gums. The research in question followed more than 1,000 New Zealanders over 20 years—from when they were 18 to 38—and logged their self-reported cannabis use.

When comparing how the weed fans fared in relation to people who just smoked tobacco, "normal" cigarettes were found to be linked to more problems with people's lungs and metabolic health. But more than half of the people surveyed, who smoked cannabis heavily for at least 15 years, ended up living with periodontal diseases—or infections, swelling, and bleeding in the general gums area.

Now, another group of researchers are putting a real downer on weed in relation to ... your bones. Well, it's only a downer depending on your perspective. A study published last month surveyed 170 self-identifying heavy weed smoking Brits and looked at their bone health. In this case, "heavy use" amounted to smoking at least 5,000 times in your lifetime, though the researchers made note of the fact that average heavy user had actually lit up more than 45,000 times in their lifetime.

The study found that the stoners had a lower bone density, of about 5 percent, compared with tobacco smokers. Cannabis users tended to have bones more susceptible to fractures, which indicated the sort of low bone health that could lead to osteoporosis later in life.

The bone density x-ray was just one part of the study, though. The research team also discovered that stoners tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-weed smokers. "We have known for a while that the components of cannabis can affect bone cell function but we had no idea up until now of what this might mean to people who use cannabis on a regular basis," said lead researcher, professor Stuart Ralston. "Our research has shown that heavy users of cannabis have quite a large reduction in bone density compared with non-users and there is a real concern that this may put them at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures later in life."

While that doesn't sound great, it's important to pull apart the findings on bone health a bit. As we've already reported, CBD—the cannabinoid in marijuana that doesn't actually make you high—may actually be able to improve bone health over time. And in the UK, CBD's been approved as a medicine by the government arm that regulates medication and healthcare products, so the market for hemp-derived CBD oils may be about to undergo some major changes. But when smoking weed, you obviously can't just extract CBD on your own for the sake of your bones.

This September study found correlation between lower bone density, and the sort of lower BMI that you wouldn't expect from a drug that, in the short term, makes people reach for the snacks. For the researchers, the conclusion was simple: "Heavy cannabis use negatively impacts on bone health both directly and indirectly through an effect on BMI." You'll have to see what body part comes under scrutiny for stoners next.