Marijuana users more likely to need emergency care and hospitalization, study finds

·2 min read

Story at a glance

  • Cannabis users were 22 percent more likely than those who don’t use to land in the emergency room or become hospitalized for any reason, suggesting use of the drug may be associated with negative health outcomes.

  • Bodily injury was the top reason for emergency department visits and hospitalizations among marijuana users, while respiratory issues came in second.

  • While recreational marijuana is still illegal in the U.S. under federal law, at least 19 states have passed legislation to allow sales of the drug.

A new study suggests recreational marijuana smokers may be at an increased risk of needing emergency room care or hospitalization compared with those who do not use cannabis.

Canadian researchers behind the study published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research compared health data from nearly 4,800 people who reported using marijuana in the preceding 12 months with data from 10,000 people who don’t use.

The goal of the study was to examine whether there was a link between weed use and respiratory-related hospitalizations or emergency room visits. While researchers found no strong association with marijuana use and respiratory-related hospital visits and deaths, they found overall visits to emergency rooms and hospitalizations for any reason was higher among those who used marijuana. The analysis was adjusted for 31 other confounding factors such as physical and mental health diseases, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use.

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Cannabis users were 22 percent more likely than those who don’t use to land in the emergency room or become hospitalized for any reason, suggesting use of the drug may be associated with negative health outcomes. Bodily injury was the top reason for emergency department visits and hospitalizations among marijuana users, while respiratory issues came in second.

“Our research demonstrates that cannabis use in the general population is associated with heightened risk of clinically serious negative outcomes, specifically, needing to present to the ED [emergency department] or be admitted to hospital,” Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“Unlike tobacco, there is some uncertainty or controversy regarding the adverse health impacts of cannabis. Some individuals may perceive that cannabis has some health benefits and is otherwise benign. Our research highlights to those using – or considering to use – cannabis, that this behavior is associated with important negative health events.”

While recreational marijuana is still illegal in the U.S. under federal law, at least 19 states have passed legislation to allow sales of the drug. Almost every single state in the country has legalized some form of medical or recreational marijuana — except for Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas.

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