Pot users nearly 25% more likely to need hospitalization for any reason

The young person smoking medical marijuana joint outdoors. The young woman smoke cannabis blunt, close-up.
The young person smoking medical marijuana joint outdoors. The young woman smoke cannabis blunt, close-up. Photo credit Getty images

Smoking weed has become increasingly popular as more and more states have legalized it for recreational use, in addition to the number of states where medical marijuana is already legal. In fact, a record 49% of Americans said they tried pot at least once in 2021, according to a Gallup poll.

Many believe that weed has plenty of health benefits and can help treat a number of different conditions, such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and cancer.

Although, a new study found that recreational marijuana users were 22% more likely to end up in the emergency room or need hospitalization for any reason.

The study was published by Canadian researchers on Monday in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research. They analyzed the health records of about 4,800 people that used marijuana in the last 12 months and compared them to the records of about 10,000 people who don't use marijuana.

Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, lead author, and a respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, explained in a statement what the research team found about the perceived health benefits of weed.

"Our research demonstrates that cannabis use in the general population is associated with heightened risk of clinically serious negative outcomes, specifically, needing to present to the ED [emergency department] or be admitted to hospital," Vozoris said in a news release.

"Unlike tobacco, there is some uncertainty or controversy regarding the adverse health impacts of cannabis. Some individuals may perceive that cannabis has some health benefits and is otherwise benign. Our research highlights to those using – or considering to use – cannabis, that this behavior is associated with important negative health events."

The study did not find a "significant association" between using marijuana and respiratory-related ER visits, but they did determine that those who used marijuana had an overall higher likelihood of ER visits and hospitalizations than those who don't use.

"Researchers incorporated 31 different variables while matching study participants to minimize an unfair comparison, including demographics, multiple physical and mental health diseases, and tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use," according to the news release.

"The primary goal of the study was to explore whether there was a link between cannabis use and respiratory-related hospitalization or ED [emergency department] visits."

The most common reason for a marijuana user to need to visit the ER or be hospitalized was "acute trauma, defined as bodily injury" at 15% of the time, followed by care for respiratory reasons at 14% of the time.