Top 10 New Studies on the Effects of Marijuana

It’s been an exciting 12-months for cannabis research. In celebration of 4/20, check out these top 10 marijuana studies published within the last year.

Every year, researchers discover more about marijuana and its effects. Celebrate 4/20 this year by learning what we know about cannabis in 2019 that we didn’t know at the beginning of 2018.

1. Cannabis Users Have a Better Chance of Surviving a Heart Attack

Heart attack marijuana study

Brief Overview: After comparing the hospital records of more than a million heart-attack patients, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that those who had used cannabis in the past were significantly less likely to die during hospitalization. Patients with a history of marijuana use were also significantly less likely to experience shock or require an intra-aortic balloon pump than patients without.

Read more about the study on marijuana use and heart attack outcomes.

2. Cannabis Leaves are Effective Against Staph Infections

Staph infection marijuana effects

Brief Overview: It appears that crushed cannabis leaves can effectively fight against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a cause of Staph infection that is resistant to some antibiotics and hard to treat. Researchers from Saaii College of Medical Science and Technology and the University of Gour Banga in India tested the antimicrobial properties of crushed cannabis leaves infused into an ethanol-based tincture. They found the leaves are even more effective when combined with common guava and an evergreen coniferous tree called Thuja orientalis.

Read more about the study examining the antimicrobial benefits of cannabis leaves.

3. Myth that Marijuana is a Gateway Drug Again Debunked

Marijuana Gateway Drug

Brief Overview: That common misconception that marijuana will lead to the use of serious drugs? Research findings published by LiveStories found no connection between having used marijuana and the eventual use of more dangerous and addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin. It’s not the first study to debunk the myth.

Read more about the research investigating whether marijuana use increases the risk of using harmful substances.

4. Medical Marijuana Can Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Marijuana Instead of Opioids

Brief Overview: Providing patients with a legal avenue for marijuana appears to lead to a significant drop in prescription opioid use. Researchers from the University of California San Diego and Weill Cornell Medical College looked at whether there is a correlation between medical marijuana legalization and prescription opioid use over a 21-year period. They found legalization led to a nearly 30% drop in opioids, suggesting the patients were opting to treat their pain with cannabis instead.

Read more about the study on the effects of medical marijuana legalization on opioid use.

5. We Now Know How Marijuana Stimulates Appetite

Marijuana Appetite Effects

Brief Overview: Marijuana’s appetite-stimulating properties are well-documented, but last year researchers from Washington State University were able to identify how its compounds alter eating behavior. With their animal study, they discovered that marijuana triggers a surge in ghrelin, a hormone responsible for signaling to the brain when it’s time to seek out more food.

Read more about the research into marijuana’s appetite-stimulating effects.

6. Medical Marijuana is Gradually Replacing Anti-Anxiety Medications

Marijuana for Anxiety

Brief Overview: Anxiety is common in today’s society, and it appears that a growing number of patients are opting to use medical cannabis instead of traditional meds to treat the issue. A team of Canadian researchers found that 30% of medical marijuana patients discontinued their use of anti-anxiety drugs within two months of starting with their cannabis treatment. After six months, that value jumped up to 45%.

Read more about the study on cannabis being used in place of traditional meds for anxiety.

7. Legalizing Marijuana Makes the U.S. Southern Border Safer

Marijuana Southern Border

Brief Overview: Cannabis advocates have a new argument they can utilize in their pursuit of legalization: Ending marijuana prohibition makes communities safer. An analysis from the Cato Institute found that smuggling over the U.S. Southern Border has significantly dropped as more states have legalized marijuana. Over a five-year period, Border Patrol seizures fell 78%. The findings suggest that legalization leads to less business for cartels and a subsequent reduction in smuggling-related violence.

Read more about the research into the effects of marijuana legalization on smuggling.

8. Frequent Marijuana Use Does NOT Adversely Impact Brain Structure

Marijuana Brain Structure

Brief Overview: Using cannabis regularly appears to have no association with brain morphology. A team of 20 investigators from 13 institutions across Australia, the U.S., and the UK examined MRI scans of more than 1,000 young adults and middle-aged men to assess whether habitual marijuana use leads to decreases in gray matter volumes in the brain. They found no such relationship.

Read more about the study investigating marijuana use and brain morphology.

9. Older Adults Benefit From Medical Marijuana Too

Seniors Marijuana Benefits

Brief Overview: Providing legal access to medical marijuana can improve the health and employment prospects of older adults. After researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Temple University compared medical marijuana laws to more than 100,000 survey responses from adults 51 years and up, they found that those who qualified for medical marijuana experienced significantly less pain and were able to work more hours.

Read more about the research into the effects of legalizing medical marijuana on older adults.

(Separately, researchers last year also found that cannabis is “safe and efficacious” for senior adults.)

10. Legal Marijuana Users Consume Less Alcohol

Marijuana Alcohol Use

Brief Overview: A market research report from Chicago-based High Yield Insights found that adults who use marijuana and live in a state where it’s legal consume 21% fewer cocktails and 20% fewer beers than those who use marijuana but live where it’s illegal. Their report also found legal marijuana use to be associated with reductions in prescription anxiety, pain, and depression medications.

Read more about the report’s findings on how marijuana legalization impacts alcohol usage.

Looking for more cannabis research? Check out our education page to find research overviews, or visit our Scientific Research page to read more about the most recent findings.