Medical Marijuana and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone disease which results in a decrease in the body’s bone mass density. Osteoporosis is progressive, meaning that the disease and the symptoms get worse over time. As bones become less dense, they also become increasingly likely to fracture. People with osteoporosis need to take special care not to fall or injure themselves, and must often alter their lifestyle to reduce the risk of fractures.

Since marijuana is useful for the management and treatment of a variety of conditions, is it possible that it can help those suffering with osteoporosis as well? Let’s take a look at some of the preliminary but interesting research.

A 2007 review published in Advances in Experimental and Medicine Biology offered an extensive look at the research surrounding the advances in medicinal marijuana uses up to that point. It noted that marijuana acted on the body’s endocannabinoid system in a variety of ways, and that it was particularly useful for inflammatory diseases. The review also offered some of the first hints that marijuana could be used for osteoporosis.

This was exactly what had previously been noted by a 2005 study, which discovered that the body’s cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) seemed to be involved in bone density, and that mice lacking in CB2 receptors showed accelerated bone loss. This suggested that stimulating CB2 receptors with the cannabinoids found in marijuana could possibly help prevent osteoporosis.

Another review, published 4 years later in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, picked up on this suggestion and took an even closer look at the implications. The author once again isolated the CB2 receptor as a possible target for cannabinoid-related therapies for diseases such as osteoporosis, noting that the stimulation of CB2 receptors both inhibited bone reabsorption and stimulated new bone formation.

2009 saw another study, which this time noted that the CB2 receptor was associated with postmenopausal osteoporosis in women. This specific link to humans led the authors to call for the development of cannabinoid drugs containing compounds such as THC for the prevention of osteoporosis. This was followed up in 2010 by a study which compiled all of the available data to date and called once again for clinical research to be done.

While we are still a long way away from clinical trials on human patients, the preliminary findings seem to suggest that marijuana has the potential to prevent or at least delay osteoporosis.