A pair of studies released this week examining the health effects of marijuana use found the drug posed no significant risk to health or mortality.
A study published Monday in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition reported that marijuana smokers' nutritional health was equal to that of their non-smoking peers despite differing dietary patterns. Researchers examined the long-term dietary and nutritional habits of approximately 11,000 marijuana consumers and non-users between the ages of 20 and 59. They found that marijuana smokers exhibited normal levels of vitamins and minerals, and averaged slightly lower body mass indexes (BMI) - a scientific gauge of obesity - than nonsmokers. Researchers called the latter result "surprising" because smokers consumed a larger percentage of calories than non-users. The study's authors speculated that marijuana may increase metabolism to offset weight gain in healthy subjects.
A second study published Monday in the journal Circulation examining the association between marijuana smoking and heart attacks found the drug posed negligible risks to healthy subjects. Researchers interviewed 3,882 heart attack sufferers and found that 124 reportedly used marijuana. Of these, 37 had used marijuana within 24 hours of a heart attack, and nine said they had used it within the previous hour. Based upon this limited data, the study's author, Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, reported that the risk of heart attack was slightly increased in the first hour after smoking, but dissipated shortly after that. Mittleman compared the heightened risk from marijuana to be roughly equivalent to vigorous exercise for someone of average fitness, and far less than that posed by air pollution.
Mittleman estimates the risk of a heart attack for an otherwise healthy 50-year old man after smoking marijuana is about 10 in one million.
"Despite their headlines, most studies alleging new dangers from marijuana are really much ado about nothing," said NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, who noted that a 1997 Kaiser Permanente study of 40,000 marijuana users and 25,000 non-users found that marijuana had no significant impact on mortality. "If marijuana smoking posed serious negative impacts on health - whether by increasing one's risk of a heart attack or otherwise - it would already have become readily apparent in large scale epidemiological surveys."
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.