By / January 25, 2023

Long-Term Cannabis Users Face No Negative Health Impacts, Says Spanish Study

Results of a study that analyzed data from 600,000 Spanish residents who are regular cannabis users indicate that long-term cannabis use does not contribute to poorer health.

Cannabis Users in Spain

Cannabis users among the Spanish population are one of the most significant groups in Europe, after France. Personal and private use of cannabis is decriminalized in Spain, while public consumption or possession can net users a fine.

Published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, researchers used a sample of 419 subjects from among 600,000 respondents in a 2019 – 2020 national population survey who lived in Catalonia and had used cannabis in the previous 30 days.

The researchers used specific methods to analyze respondent data to calculate that the sample of 419 regular cannabis users was sufficient to represent cannabis users with over 95% accuracy.

Those included in the sample of cannabis users had an average age of 33 and worked primarily in the service, administrative, or commercial sectors. In addition, nearly three-quarters had some form of higher education (after leaving high school at age 16).

The Majority of Study Participants Have Used Other Drugs

When asked about their previous drug use, 60% of the sample said they had used MDMA, 57% cocaine, 51% LSD, mushrooms, or other psychedelics, 40% amphetamine, and 23% ketamine.

Commenting on the sample’s prior drug use, the study authors stated, “The study sample reported higher drug use than the general population … However, this higher use does not appear to be associated with adverse health outcomes, as reflected by the indicators used.”

Comparing Cannabis Users With the General Population

Most of the indicators used by the researchers to assess the respondents’ health did not show deterioration compared to the general population. These indicators included BMI, cholesterol, positive health perception, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

88% of the sample had a positive perception of their health compared to the general population, 67% of cannabis users had an average BMI compared to the general population, and 76% of the cannabis sample walked ten or more minutes per day compared to 70% of the population.

To assess mental health, the researchers asked several questions, including “How do you feel while using cannabis?” Unsurprisingly, 94% of those surveyed reported feeling “happy,” 92% felt “full of ideas,” and 81% felt they “understood the world better.”

The researchers noted in their study that “most indicators showed no deterioration in the health of regular cannabis users compared to the general population. However, some users reported having sleep problems, and about 40% of the sample wanted to stop using cannabis, suggesting a pattern of addiction. Approximately 30% of the sample was able to stop taking prescription medications because of cannabis. Social support and sleep problems, not cannabis use, were predictors of depression and well-being scores.”

Authors Recommend Further Study

The study authors recommend including more cannabis-related questions in future national population surveys and warn that cannabis users are at risk of developing addiction problems.

“Comparing our sample with data obtained from the general population using the ACSS, cannabis users were found to have better indicators for positive health perception, BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure problems, presence of chronic diseases, physical limitations in daily activities, mode of transportation (most cannabis users prefer cycling), and depression,” the researchers said.

“Although these differences cannot be attributed solely to cannabis use, they suggest that regular cannabis users do not experience relevant adverse effects regarding basic indicators of overall health. However, we must remember that assessing the specific impact of cannabis use on health is difficult because health is a complex construct affected by many variables.”

“In addition, potential dependence was also observed, suggesting that sustained cannabis use over the years may be associated with a higher risk of developing such dependence. Another significant finding was that frequency of cannabis use was unrelated to depression and well-being scores, whereas social support and sleep problems were strong predictors.”

Conclusion: Long-Term Cannabis Users Face no Negative Health Impacts

“In conclusion, these results suggest that long-term cannabis use may not play a central role in public health, whereas other complex health behaviors and variables are more related to health. Therefore, we suggest that cannabis-related items be included in national health surveys, as they would provide valuable data to support the advancement of public debates regarding its regulation.”

To read the complete study, head here.

(Featured image by Joseph Eulo via Pexels)

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