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Recreational cannabis isn’t as harmless as we think, study shows

According to a study published Monday in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research, people who reported using cannabis in the past year were significantly more likely to be admitted to the hospital or emergency room than people who did not use the drug.


  • Cannabis users, the vast majority of whom the researchers said were recreational users, had a “significantly higher” risk of being hospitalized or going to the emergency room for any reason. – reviewed the analysis of medical records of more than 15,000 Canadians.
  • The researchers found that, overall, cannabis users were 22% more likely to visit the emergency room or be hospitalized, even after adjusting for factors such as age, gender, and other health issues.
  • Acute injury (15%) was the most common reason for emergency room visits or hospitalization among cannabis users, followed by respiratory (14%) and gastrointestinal problems (13%).
  • The findings highlight the serious health risks associated with cannabis use and suggest that the increase in recreational use worldwide is “not benign” and should be reduced.

What We Don’t Know

What lies behind the results of the study. Because the study is observational, the researchers note that its results cannot be used to argue that cannabis use is responsible for higher rates of hospital admissions and emergency room visits. The results could be explained by factors that the researchers did not measure or account for in their analysis, they said. The researchers also indicated that the study’s small sample size prevented them from making a reliable estimate of the difference in risk of all-cause mortality among cannabis users, although the available data did not reveal a significant difference. The researchers said further research would be needed to confirm the findings and further explore the possible link between all-cause mortality and respiratory disease.

Key context

Despite being prohibited by federal law, cannabis use is on the rise in the United States. Nineteen states and Washington DC have legalized recreational cannabis, and several more states, including Oklahoma, appear poised to join them this year. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans support legalization, though…

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