Emergency department visits and hospitalizations are 22% higher among people who use recreational marijuana compared to those who don’t, according to a new study published this Monday (06.27.2022) in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research.
“Cannabis use is not as benign and safe as some might think,” study author Nicholas Vozoris, associate professor and clinical investigator in the division of respirology in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto, told Reuters. CNN health.
“Our study shows that the use of this substance is associated with serious negative outcomes, specifically, visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations,” he added.
The study, led by researchers from Unity Health Toronto and ICES, examined the medical records of more than 35,000 people in Ontario, Canada, aged 12 to 65 years over a six-year period, controlling for 31 potentially confusing, such as a history of substance abuse, asthma, and mental and physical disorders.
The initial 35,000 people were whittled down to a control group of about 10,000, compared to just over 4,800 people who declared themselves drug addicts.
The study found that serious physical injuries and respiratory causes were the two leading causes of emergency room visits and hospitalizations among cannabis users.
Educate the public about the harmful health effects of marijuana
According to the press release from St. Michael’s hospital, the results suggest an association between cannabis use and negative health events, which, according to the researchers, should underscore the need to educate and remind the public of the harmful effects of cannabis on health.
“Our research demonstrates that cannabis use in the general population is associated with an increased risk of negative clinically serious outcomes, specifically the need to present to the emergency department or be admitted to hospital,” Vozoris said.
“Our research shows to those who use – or are considering using – cannabis, that this behavior is associated with significant negative health events,” said Vozoris.
Hospital visits not related to respiratory problems
Of note, the study found no significant associations, as would be expected, between cannabis use and airway-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or death from any cause.
However, general emergency room visits or hospitalizations for any reason were found to be significantly higher among cannabis users.
Thus, according to the researchers, among the reasons why cannabis users went to the emergency room or were hospitalized, acute trauma – defined as bodily injury – was the most common, since 15% of cannabis users who received medical care for this reason, and 14% received care for respiratory reasons.
Studies point to other problems associated with cannabis use
As reported by CNN, citing a 2021 study, Marijuana use can, however, generate health problems in the respiratory tract not contemplated in the current study. They cite, according to the study, marijuana smokers had higher blood and urine levels of various smoke-related toxins, such as naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile, than non-smokers.
Naphthalene is associated with anemia and liver and neurological damage, while acrylamide and acrylonitrile have been associated with cancer and other health problems.
“The results of our research support that health professionals and the government should discourage recreational use of cannabis in the general population. Considering the context of the decriminalization of cannabis in Canada, which has very likely facilitated the expansion of use of this product in the population, our health and political leaders need to do more to educate and remind citizens of the harmful effects of cannabis on health,” said Vozoris.
Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.