Long-Term Cannabis Use May Lead to This Health Problem Later in Life

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Besides gum health, researchers assessed lung function, risk factors for heart disease, diabetes
Besides gum health, researchers assessed lung function, risk factors for heart disease, diabetes

(HealthDay News) — Smoking cannabis for decades may result in gum disease and potential tooth loss, according to a study published online June 1 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Madeline Meier, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleagues conducted an analysis of 1,037 people who used cannabis and/or tobacco in New Zealand. The study participants were born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 and followed to age 38. The researchers looked at whether cannabis use from ages 18 to 38 was tied to health problems at 38. Of the participants, 675 said they had used cannabis. Besides gum health, the researchers assessed lung function, risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and systemic inflammation.

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The researchers found that those who smoked cannabis for 20 years didn't have notable physical health problems, except for gum disease. Use of tobacco, but not cannabis, was associated with signs of declining health. The lack of physical health problems among cannabis users was not because they were in better health to begin with or living healthier lifestyles, the researchers said.

"Unlike tobacco smoking, cannabis smoking is associated with few physical health problems in midlife, with the exception of periodontal disease," Meier told HealthDay. "Physicians should convey to patients that their cannabis use puts them at risk for tooth loss." Meier can't say why cannabis seems to be associated with poor dental health. "Our analyses show that this association was not explained by tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse, or less tooth brushing and flossing," she said.

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