In many ways, the world of cannabis continues to operate in the realms of rumor and hearsay. This is especially true when it comes to the possible medical and health benefits of the plant. And this shouldn’t be surprising. Cannabis prohibition laws have made it very hard to conduct and compile sustained scientific research. The idea that cannabis can extend your life expectancy is one of those topics that could be legend just as easily as it could be fact. So what’s really going on? Does weed make you live longer? Here’s what research shows so far.
Cannabis and Life Expectancy
The most obvious way to tackle the question at hand—does weed make you live longer—is to go at it head-on. Interestingly, there was reportedly a study of THC completed in the late 1990s that apparently never made it into the public eye.
According to sources, the study was eventually leaked although it was never formally published. The leaked study highlighted the results of a test in which rats were given various doses of THC. At the end of the experiment, “those given THC had a clear survival advantage over the untreated controls.”
While this definitely seems like an intriguing conclusion, researchers have cautioned against reading too much into this. In particular, they said that the increased life expectancy among rats given THC could arise from a number of other factors, not just the THC in and of itself.
For example, those factors could include variables like body weight, appetite, stress or anxiety levels, and more. But one way or another, the fact remains that in this study the rats that were given steady doses of THC lived longer on average than rats that didn’t have THC.
Does Weed Make You Live Longer? The Ancillary Benefits Could Help
The real take away from this study seems to be that cannabis could have its biggest impact on life expectancy through all the ancillary benefits it produces.
To put it differently, it’s still unclear if cannabis does anything to your body to directly make you live longer. But what is more clear is that the plant could do a bunch of other stuff for you that could lead to better overall health, thereby increasing the chance that you’ll live longer.
For example, weed reduces stress and anxiety for many people. And this could help these people live longer. Studies have found that extreme stress has detrimental effects on health and life expectancy. So by decreasing that stress, you could set yourself up for a longer life.
Similarly, cannabis has shown promise in treating or decreasing numerous illnesses and other negative health conditions. For example, it’s shown promise at helping people deal with side effects of cancer and more aggressive forms of cancer treatment.
Assuming that each of these conditions negatively impacts a person’s life expectancy, it’s safe to say that cannabis can extend a person’s life by treating these other conditions.
Cannabis and Your Brain
Neurological health is another area where cannabis has shown promise. In particular, researchers have suggested that the plant could help reverse negative effects of aging on your brain.
That’s exactly what researchers concluded last year. In a 2017 study, researchers compared the brain activity of mice that were given daily doses of THC to mice that were not. They found that THC helped keep the mice’s brain’s active.
Ultimately, researchers concluded that THC and other cannabinoids can help encourage brain activity. This, they said, could help fend off the mental slowness that sometimes comes with old age.
Further, researchers have suggested that cannabis could help treat other brain disorders as well. For example, many researchers believe that cannabis can help reduce or avoid buildups of the plaque from brain cells that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
As with physical disorders, these neurological disorders can contribute to shorter life spans. By mitigating the harm caused by these problems, cannabis could theoretically extend a person’s life expectancy.
Does Weed Make You Live Longer?
This brings us back to the original question: Does weed make you live longer? The answer appears to be, not directly. So far, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that cannabis directly makes you live longer.
But there is a lot of evidence suggesting that weed produces other health benefits. It can help treat a number of physical illnesses and disorders. Similarly, cannabis can help many people decrease stress and anxiety. And it can help fend off or slow the onset of neurological disorders. By helping you avoid all these health problems, weed can tangentially help you live a little bit longer.
Either way, if you’re looking to get the maximal health benefits from cannabis, you should probably pay attention to how you consume it. Research suggests that inhaling smoke of any kind could have negative side effects. So to play it safe, it’s a good idea to try consuming weed in some other way.
Another Perspective: Cannabis Use Linked to Health Problems
Research shows that cannabis can produce a number of health-promoting effects. But at the samet time, there are also studies suggesting that heavy and prolonged cannabis consumption might be linked to certain indicators of poor health.
Most notable is a 2018 report conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website. This study looked at data from the Monitoring the Future survey. In this survey, almost 10,000 participants self-reported on various aspects of personal drug use and health.
After analyzing survey data related to cannabis consumption, researchers identified a number of trends. In particular, they reported that people who consume cannabis regularly and for a long time tended to report more health problems at age 50. This includes psychiatric issues, physical conditions, and potentially harmful drug and alcohol use.
“Compared with people who never used marijuana, those who used marijuana for shorter or longer periods of time had higher odds of various health problems at age 50,” the NIDA’s summary of the study said. “Those who used marijuana longer were significantly more likely to experience certain health problems than were those who only used marijuana for a short time.”
At the same time, researchers warned against drawing firm conclusions from this. In fact, researchers said that these trends might not have anything to do with causality. Instead, it could simply highlight other demographic variables.
For example, a person who already has a serious health condition might regularly consume medical marijuana. In this case, that person would show up on the survey as a heavy marijuana user and as a person with health problems. But this person’s health condition is not caused by marijuana. Instead, the marijuana use could actually be helping them manage their health condition.
Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand the various ways cannabis interacts with and affects the human body. And that includes questions of overall health and life expectancy.