What do you think the biggest health risk is from consuming cannabis?

Do this poll before clicking through to find out the answer:

If you chose gum disease as the biggest health risk from consuming cannabis you’d be right.

But it turns out you have to work real hard for that to take effect.

Gum disease is one of the few physical health problems associated with cannabis use, according to new research on over 1000 New Zealanders.

As the most widely used illegal drug in the world, understanding the long-term effects of cannabis is a global priority.

However lead author Madeline Meier cautioned recreational users: “We don’t want people to think, ‘Hey, marijuana can’t hurt me,’ because other studies on this same sample of New Zealanders have shown that marijuana use is associated with increased risk of psychotic illness, IQ decline and downward socioeconomic mobility.”

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry on June 1, tested associations between cannabis use over 20 years and a variety of physical health problems later in life.

The research was a follow-up from Arizona State University and others on the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Developmental Study, which follows 1037 people born in Dunedin in 1972-1973. Of those, 947 individuals completed at least three of the five adult cannabis assessments from ages 18-38.

The assessments tested whether cannabis use from ages 18-38 years was associated with physical health at age 38, even after controlling for tobacco use, childhood health, and childhood socioeconomic status.

It also tested whether cannabis use from ages 26-38 years was associated with health decline using the same measures of health for both ages.

Of the 1037 participants: 52 per cent were male, 484 had ever used tobacco daily, and 675 had ever used cannabis.

Results showed cannabis use was associated with poorer gum health, while tobacco use was associated with worse lung function and systemic inflammation.

Cannabis use for up to 20 years was “unrelated to other physical health problems”. 

Fascinating. But wait…any health problems that do arise can usually be pinned to addiction to other substances that are far more harmful like tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. If you use those in conjunction to cannabis then you really are at risk from health complications.

Previous research found the more years of cannabis dependence or regular use, the worse the economic and social problems.

“This finding stands in contrast to popular and expert opinion, which states that heavy alcohol use imposes more economic and social costs than does heavy cannabis use,” the study’s authors said.

Cannabis dependence is often thought to occur alongside dependence on other substances such as alcohol or hard drugs, and the study supported this.

“Dunedin Study members who were dependent on cannabis were more likely during the course of their lives to be dependent on alcohol.”

They were also more likely to be dependent on “hard drugs”.

So, tell me again why cannabis is illegal and alcohol isn’t?


– Fairfax

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.