- Chronic cannabis consumption has been linked to periodontal disease and dental loss, as noted by a research study involving approximately 1,000 participants from New Zealand.
- The health impacts of long-term cannabis usage appear to be quite limited to periodontal disease, according to the head researcher Madeline Meier from Arizona State University.
- No definitive causal effect between cannabis consumption and periodontal disease has been established so far, however, continuous use of cannabis has been suggested to heighten risks of psychotic illness, decline in IQ and downward socio-economic mobility.
- The study shed light on the effects of marijuana use from ages 18 to 38 and its correlation with health issues at the age of 38, among a cohort born in the early 70s in New Zealand.
- The outcomes of the research have been interpreted by some as supporting the argument for marijuana legalization in the United States.
Long-standing cannabis usage may eventually result in periodontal disease and potential dental loss, according to recent research.
Through an examination of approximately 1,000 cannabis and/or tobacco users in New Zealand, it was determined that individuals who consumed cannabis for two decades exhibited no significant health issues, with the exception of gum disease.
The Health Impacts of Long-term Cannabis Use
“Cannabis smoking differs from tobacco smoking, resulting in few physical health problems in middle-age, apart from periodontal disease”, said primary investigator Madeline Meier, who holds an assistant professorship of psychology at Arizona State University.
In addition to oral health, the research team evaluated lung function, risks associated with heart disease and diabetes, as well as systematic inflammation, which could signal a severe reaction to trauma or infection.
Cannabis and Periodontal Disease
While the study isn’t definitive in proving that cannabis triggers gum, or periodontal, disease, Meier suggests that “physicians should communicate to patients that their cannabis usage places them at risk of dental loss.”
The cause of the correlation between poor dental health and cannabis consumption remains uncertain. According to Meier, “Our analysis shows this association was not caused by tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse, or reduced tooth brushing and flossing.”
The Long-term Consequences of Marijuana Use
Still, Meier is not asserting that marijuana use is free from negative impacts.
“We shouldn’t allow people to be under the misconstrued belief that, ‘Hey, cannabis can’t harm me,’ due to recent research demonstrating that marijuana use correlates with heightened risks of psychotic illness, decline in IQ, and downward socio-economic mobility,” she asserted.
Furthermore, the researchers’ examination period may not have been extensive enough to determine whether cannabis intensifies the risk for diseases that manifest later in life, such as cancer.
Recreational Cannabis Use
“Cannabis may be detrimental in certain respects, but not necessarily in every way,” stated study co-author Avshalom Caspi, a psychology professor at Duke University. “It’s essential to acknowledge that extensive recreational cannabis use does entail some negative consequences, though no overall detriment to physical health has been apparent in this study.”
Understanding Cannabis Usage
The study cohort, born in New Zealand in the early ’70s, was observed until they reached 38 years of age. The researchers evaluated whether marijuana use from ages 18 to 38 was correlated with health issues at 38. Nearly 700 of the over 1,000 contributors admitted to having used marijuana.
Application of tobacco, but not marijuana, was linked with signs of deteriorating health. The absence of physical health issues among marijuana users was not due to superior initial health or adherence to healthier lifestyles, stated the researchers.
The Legalization Debate
A proponent of cannabis consumption asserted that the outcomes of the study buttress arguments in favor of marijuana legalization in the United States. Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group advocating for cannabis legalization, stated, “These results reinforce what cannabis law reformers have suspected for a while: that cannabis, even long-term consumption, poses fewer health risks than tobacco, and therefore, should be legalized and regulated accordingly.”
He further hypothesised that the association between chronic marijuana use and periodontal disease is likely due to dry mouth, a common symptom among cannabis smokers.
Armentano continues to argue, “These results challenge the myth that cannabis’ prospective risks to adult health justify its DEA Schedule 1 prohibition under federal law,” a classification that equates marijuana’s risks with those of heroin and denies the plant any proven medicinal value.
The findings were recently published in the online journal JAMA Psychiatry.
For additional information on marijuana, please visit this link to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.