By / September 12, 2023

Health of Regular Cannabis Users Comparable or Better Than General Population, Study Indicates

Research conducted by scientists from the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Services (ICEERS) in Spain, led by José Carlos Bouso, has found that regular users of cannabis do not experience a decline in health compared to the general population. This was the first study of its kind to assess the impact of regular cannabis use on public health in Spain, which has the third-highest rate of cannabis consumption in Europe.

Methodology: Sampling and Data Collection

The research team, consisting of members from ICEERS and the Department of Biology and Health Psychology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, developed a questionnaire based on the Catalan Public Health Study. According to population studies conducted in the same year as this study (2019–2020), 600,000 people in Catalonia regularly use cannabis (those who have used it in the last 30 days).

To achieve a 95% confidence level, a sample of 384 individuals was required: 125 men aged 15–34, 132 men aged 35–64, 63 women aged 15–34, and 64 women aged 35–64.

Inclusion criteria required that participants be between the ages of 15 and 64, reside in Catalonia, have used cannabis in the last 30 days, and be able to read, understand, and sign an informed consent form. Exclusion criteria included age below 15 or above 64, lack of residence in Catalonia, not having used cannabis in the last 30 days, or an inability to understand or sign the informed consent form.

Key Findings: Physical and Mental Health

Information was gathered from 419 regular cannabis users in the Catalonia region of Spain. Data was collected between 2019 and 2022, covering sociodemographic information on mental and physical health, lifestyle, social relationships, and consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.

José Carlos Bouso, the lead researcher of this study, stated that the health of regular cannabis users is comparable or better than that of the general population. Cannabis users rated their health more favorably, had better body mass indices, reported fewer problems with cholesterol, blood pressure, chronic diseases, physical limitations, and depression.

Additional Observations: Sleep and Substance Use

These findings are consistent with earlier studies describing potential health benefits from using cannabis, such as reduced risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. However, regular cannabis users were also observed to have higher levels of sleep problems, which could have negative, long-term health consequences.

It should be noted that most participants of this study consumed cannabis in the form of spliffs mixed with tobacco. This method could adversely affect lung health, as smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco increases the risk of respiratory diseases. Therefore, it’s important to promote safer consumption methods, such as using vaporizers or edible products, to mitigate the risks associated with cannabis use.

Furthermore, cannabis users reported consuming half the amount of alcohol compared to the general population, and 30% of the sample was able to stop taking prescription medications while using cannabis.

Health Policy Implications and Future Research

Despite the study showing that cannabis users had worse sleep indicators than the general population, existing evidence also suggests better sleep quality among users of medical cannabis. The authors of the study recommend incorporating articles related to cannabis into national health studies to provide valuable data that can inform public debate on its regulation.

José Carlos Bouso emphasized, “Cannabis consumption is stigmatized because this plant is considered harmful to public health, but there has never been an actual study on its impact based on public health indicators. This is the first study of its kind. The findings aim to help shape policy decisions concerning the regulation of cannabis.”

(Featured image by GRAS GRÜN via Unsplash)

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