Smoking too much weed could speed the rate at which your body ages, according to the authors of a study published last week in the journal BMJ Open.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia examined the cardiovascular health of regular cannabis smokers, and compared them to non-smokers in order to determine how the drug affects users’ vascular age – something the study authors say provides a good indication of a person’s all-round biological age.
Using a technique called radial arterial pulse wave tonometry, the team examined 11 people who smoke only marijuana, 504 who use only tobacco, 114 who smoke both weed and cigarettes, and 534 non-smokers. Following participants over a five-year period, they discovered that the vascular age of those who regularly smoked marijuana was 11.84 percent higher than their actual age, based on the stiffness of their arteries.
“We found that for those who used cannabis over a long time, not only does it age you, it increases ageing at an exponential rate over time which is alarming,” said study co-author Stuart Reece in a statement.
While the researchers are not able to explain why this is the case, they point out that many of the cannabinoids found in marijuana are known to affect the cardiovascular system via a number of different pathways. Compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), for instance, bind to a receptor called CB1, setting off a cascade of effects that alter the genetic expression of immune cells and cause blood vessels to become inflamed.
Though cannabis is now increasingly being recognized as a powerful medicinal drug that can alleviate the symptoms of a range of different conditions, the results of this study will surely provide some cause for concern regarding the long-term effects of smoking weed.