By now, you’ve probably heard of all the benefits of cannabis consumption. You might then be thinking that if weed is so beneficial, then could stoners live longer than non-weed users? Here is what science has to say.
How Weed May Help Stoners to Live Longer
We haven’t been able to find many studies that look at the life expectancy for stoners vs non-stoners. However, there are a couple of assumptions we can make based on studies done on some of the benefits of weed.
Weed Reduces Stress
As you may have heard, stress kills.
Stress can come from any facet of your life. Carolyn Aldwin directs the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University. She was cited on NPR saying, that people who found life stressful were three times more likely to die than those who didn’t find life that stressful. She said, “People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful.”
According to the article, stress produces a hormone known as cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can increase your blood pressure, give you heart disease, and lower immune function.
If you feel like your job is draining the life out of you, then you may be on to something. According to The Atlantic, stress on the job can be deadly. The article said, “stressful workplaces did make it more likely for workers to die earlier.”
So as you can see, stress is bad. While there are several ways to reduce stress, marijuana can help. Carrie Cuttler is a clinical assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University (WSU) and author of a study cited in Health Europa. She found that marijuana reduces stress significantly. According to the article, “10 or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC produced the largest reductions in stress.”
Weed’s ability to reduce stress seems to lie in the makeup of the strain. According to Science Daily, a study concluded that weed with low doses of THC was found to reduce stress while weed with higher doses of THC increased anxiety and had the opposite effect.
Weed Helps ALS Patients
According to Canna MD, ALS, which also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. People diagnosed with ALS have about three to five years left to live. According to a study called Cannabis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Hypothetical and Practical Applications, and a Call for Clinical Trials “based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.”
Stoners Tend to Be Thinner
While we’ve already examined the link between marijuana and lower BMI, it’s important to bring it up again. According to the CDC, obesity is “associated with the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer”. Just to be clear, we are not saying being thin is automatically healthy. Thinner people can absolutely be unhealthy and develop these conditions too. However, obesity is still linked to certain chronic conditions that do cost people their lives.
Although studies have shown that stoners tend to weigh less than non-stoners, the link between the two isn’t fully understood. On one hand, marijuana could be affecting metabolism which causes a lower weight. On the other hand, stoners may be thinner because it increases mobility, improves sleep among other things associated with a lower body weight.
Can Weed Reduce Life Expectancy?
While marijuana evidently has a multitude of health benefits that improve well-being and perhaps even increase longevity, it can reduce life expectancy in certain cases. There are numerous scientific studies that show that smoking weed can be detrimental to young people, particularly teenagers. According to an article published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, early use of weed leads to several negative outcomes. The article stated, “Adolescent marijuana use is associated with a decreased likelihood of graduating from high school, and increased risks of self-deviance, risky sexual behaviors, violence towards others, contact with the justice system, depression, and suicidal behaviors.” Any of those risks could potentially cut their life short.
According to a study, people who start heavily using marijuana early in life have a higher risk of death than non-users. The study followed 50,373 Swedish male military conscripts (ages 18–19). They were followed in the National Cause of Death Register up to around age 60.
The study did say that it’s possible the continuous heavy use of weed could be the reason for the early death, “It is possible that heavy users of cannabis at baseline continued using cannabis during follow-up, and that this had the strongest effect on mortality at greater ages”.
What the Study Says About Cannabis and Death
So you may be wondering, what exactly caused these people to die earlier than their counterparts who didn’t smoke at a young age. The study says that 40% of the deaths are attributed to suicide and or unnatural causes. The other 60% was attributed to natural causes such as pulmonary disease.
The study went on to say that impulsive actions of cannabis users may be partly responsible. In addition to that, it said heavy users had a greater percentage of death by injury. According to the study the “group of subjects with a baseline history of moderate or heavy cannabis use had a significantly higher percentage of deaths due to “injury undetermined whether accidentally or purposely inflicted” than the group without a baseline history of cannabis use.”
Cannabis Use and Non Affective Psychosis
Cannabis combined with nonaffective psychosis, also known broadly as schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis, could technically lead to certain scenarios where death is possible. The study said, “Use of cannabis among individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis increases the risks of persistent psychotic experiences, poor medication adherence, and relapses”. It continues to say “all of which can hypothetically lead to greater numbers of accidents and suicide attempts.”
However, it’s not clear whether those who smoke cannabis and developed psychosis have excess mortality than those with the condition that don’t use cannabis. In addition to that, the study said, “No significant interaction was found between cannabis use and diagnosis of psychotic disorders with regard to an increased crude risk of death” What we do know is that the mortality rate is two to three times higher for those with nonaffective psychosis than the general population.
What Does This All Mean?
Before you become fearful that weed is somehow deadly, let’s look at the limitations of the study. The authors themselves said that the result of the study should be interpreted with caution. First of all, the results are primarily from the survey done at conscription. In addition to that, the study does not account for differences in lifetime use of cannabis. That essentially means that the researchers don’t know how the subjects used cannabis into adulthood. They also haven’t taken into account other risk factors. The study said, “It is possible that other risk factors after baseline influenced our results, such as risky behavior and use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.” With that said, more long-term studies like this one should be done.
Depending on the person, weed may not be the secret to a long life. A long healthy life requires a healthy diet, exercise, and also keeping stress to a minimum. A long life doesn’t hinge on any one thing. However, weed definitely has its benefits. Weed can reduce stress, possibly keep body weight down and help with various diseases such as ALS. Weed may very well extend someone’s life. Unfortunately, excessive cannabis smoking, especially as a teenager, is less likely to lead to a longer healthier life. We’re looking forward to more cannabis research.