New research suggests that marijuana use may not be as benign as many people think. Experts say that current and former marijuana users appear to be more likely to develop prediabetes. The condition, which is characterized by inadequate blood sugar control, can lead to Type 2 diabetes if left unchecked.
“In general, these findings are significant because there are many questions regarding the health effects of marijuana use for which we have no answers, and this is a public health concern,” says lead researcher Mike Bancks, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “We believe the results of our study suggest individuals who choose to use marijuana should be informed of the possibility that marijuana use may increase their risk for developing prediabetes.”
The findings are noteworthy as previous studies have produced mixed results. In some cases, using marijuana has actually been linked to reduced diabetes risk. For this latest study, Bancks and his team took a look at self-reported marijuana use as it relates to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. They specifically analyzed data from a large-scale study that’s currently in its thirtieth year of observation and includes over 3,000 participants.
They found that when compared to those who’d never used marijuana, folks who’d used high levels during their early adult years were 40 percent more likely to develop prediabetes at middle age.
“This should prompt further study and scrutiny of this association, and the overall health effects of marijuana use,” Bancks adds. “Additionally, to the best of our knowledge, this is one of the first prospective studies on this topic, evaluating the long-term health effects of marijuana.”
Interestingly, the study did not show that marijuana use increases the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes (just prediabetes).
This isn’t the first study to draw attention to marijuana’s potential health risks. One 2014 study found a link between the drug and serious heart-related complications.