Moderate Cannabis Use Not Associated With Negative Health Effects, Study Finds

A new study has has found that moderate cannabis use is not associated with negative physical health effects.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, looked at 308 sets of twins to investigate the link between cannabis use and physical health.

Interestingly, cannabis consumption was associated with reduced exercise and increased appetite loss. However, these associations appeared to be the result of genetic and environmental factors rather than cannabis use itself.

Although the detrimental physical effects of tobacco and alcohol are well-established, studies on the health effects of cannabis use are lacking. 

Having said that, the studies that have been conducted show that cannabis use can have an impact on respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and body mass index (BMI).

The study

In order to better understand how cannabis use effects physical health, the study focused on data on 308 sets twins who were followed from infancy into adulthood. This allowed researchers to establish whether health outcomes were due to cannabis use or from other factors like environmental ones. 

To determine associations between cannabis use and physical health, researchers analysed each participant’s average lifetime frequency of cannabis use alongside their various measures of health. Participants were also asked about their exercise and diet habits.

While greater cannabis use in adolescence was associated with less frequent exercise in adulthood, and more cannabis use in adulthood was associated with more frequent appetite loss, these effects were caused, at least in part, by shared environmental factors within twin pairs and not cannabis use. 

Explaining this, the study authors suggest that some people may have a genetical  predisposition to use cannabis and, at the same time, to exercise less and have a reduced appetite.

Speaking to PsyPost, study author Jessica Megan Ross said,  “In general, the results of this study do not support a causal association between using cannabis once a week (the mean cannabis frequency of the sample in adulthood) and detrimental physical health effects of individuals aged 25-35”. 

Additionally, more frequent cannabis use in adulthood was associated with a lower resting heart rate. And this relationship appears to be a causal one. 


The physical effects of consumption were compared to those of tobacco consumption by the researchers.   

“…the results for cannabis use contrast markedly with those for tobacco use in the current study, which were consistently associated with worse physical health,” Ross said.

While there are several limitations to the study, including that facts that study results apply only to adults (ages 25-35) who use cannabis once a week on average. 

“It is important to note that we do not suggest that cannabis is safe for everyone to use,” Ross added. 

“Although we did not find that cannabis use (once a week) is associated with detrimental physical health effects, people can still develop other negative outcomes from use like a cannabis use disorder.”

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