Marijuana may not be linked to health after all, researchers from the Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine showed in the Journal of General Internal Medicine this week (September 23). Specifically, the team found that use of the drug did not correlate with health status or health-care utilization among adults who reported to have used the drug before. The study serves to support mounting evidence that marijuana is likely less harmful than once thought.
BMC’s Daniel Fuster and his colleagues examined the relationship between marijuana use, health, and emergency department visits and hospitalizations in 589 adults who in primary care screened positive for recent illicit or non-medical prescription drug use. Among all participants, 84 percent reported marijuana use—29 percent daily, 55 percent less frequently. Adjusting for age, sex, tobacco and other substance use, Fuster’s team assessed the importance of marijuana use frequency over a three-month period in predicting health-care utilization during that same time. The researchers “were unable to detect an association between frequency of marijuana use and health, emergency department use, or hospital utilization,” they concluded in their paper.
The most commonly used illicit drug, the effects of marijuana on health have been of great interest lately, as laws—which already vary from state to state—are continually changing. At the same time, researchers continue to study the potential therapeutic uses of Cannabis, and in some cases are arguing for their use in sick children.
Fuster and his colleagues noted that because many marijuana users also use other illicit substances, the incremental effects of marijuana on health remains an open question. “Even though we could not compare marijuana users to those who used no drugs at all, our findings suggest that marijuana use has little measurable effect on self-reported health or health-care utilization in adults using drugs identified in a primary care clinic,” he said in a statement.