A new long-term study indicates that frequent marijuana use has little or no adverse health consequences to those who use the drug. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers University, tracked 408 black and white males who smoked marijuana from their teens until their mid-30s.

To monitor the men’s health, researchers surveyed the men both annually and bi-annually. The results are somewhat surprising: over the 22 years of the study, the scientists found no definitive link between marijuana and health problems.

The research, titled “Chronic Adolescent Marijuana Use as Risk Factor for Physical and Mental Problems in Young Adult Men,” focused on studying the test subjects’ mental health and respiratory issues over several years. The study also took into account the frequency with which the subjects used the drug and found there was no significant difference in the results between chronic users and those who did not use the drug or used it less frequently.

Specifically, the lead author of the study, Developmental Psychologist Jordan Bechtold, stated that, “Overall data from this sample provide little to no evidence to suggest that the patterns of marijuana use from adolescence to young adulthood . . . were negatively related to the indicators of physical or mental health studied here. Given prior research in the area, it was somewhat surprising that marijuana groups did not differ in the likelihood of having a psychotic disorder.”

Previous studies have linked frequent marijuana use with an increased risk of heart-related problems, psychosis and depression. However, the new study indicates that the earlier research that centered on “cardiac and metabolic illnesses have produced inconsistent findings.”

The new study is quite relevant given the recent debate about legalizing marijuana. “Given this shift in the political climate and the potential increase in marijuana use among youth, it is critical to empirically evaluate the long-term physical and mental health consequences of marijuana use.” As marijuana is already legal in four states, this study could have an impact on the discussion regarding the national legalization of marijuana.

Bechtold qualified the research stating that, “Just like any scientific study, our study has limitations. Our results need to be considered in the context of the larger body of work on the potential adverse consequences of chronic marijuana use.”

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