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New study identifies regular cannabis use as a potential risk factor for overactive bladder

Sep 29, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
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Previous research has shown cannabis can help relieve low urinary tract symptoms

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Chinese researchers suggest that regular cannabis users may be at increased risk of developing overactive bladder (OAB) and more severe related symptoms.

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“Marijuana exposure may be an independent risk factor for overactive bladder,” note authors of the study, a pre-proof of which was published this month in the American Journal of Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication.

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Investigators sought to assess the association between regular pot use and the onset and severity of OAB as part of low urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).

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To do so, they analyzed 13 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a program of studies to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S., and used the Overactive Bladder Symptom Score — which measures symptoms like urgency, urinary frequency and urgency incontinence — to define the presence of overactive bladder in each study participant.

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Study authors write that regular cannabis exposure was associated with the severity of OAB. “All frequencies of regular use showed almost consistent effects on the onset and severity of overactive bladder,” the study abstract states.

What is overactive bladder?

OAB “causes a frequent and sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control,” according to the Mayo Clinic. A person “may feel like you need to pass urine many times during the day and night, and may also experience unintentional loss of urine (urgency incontinence).”

Affecting millions of people in the U.S., a 2016 review noted related symptoms can range from being bothersome to resulting in “significant detrimental effects on many aspects of individuals’ lives, representing a particularly impactful health burden to quality of life and productivity.”

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A Canadian review released in 2020 showed that 43.7 per cent of respondents with urinary incontinence (UI) felt the condition was a “serious problem that could easily ruin quality of life.”

Of 23.7 per cent of people with UI, 61.2 per cent experienced leakage a few times a month or more frequently and 23.7 per cent had had UI for more than 11 years.

Cannabis has been used to relieve LUT symptoms

Authors of the new study point out that previous research has shown cannabis can help relieve LUTS.

Research from back in 2011 gathered input from patients with Multiple Sclerosis, who often develop “troublesome LUTS.” The study found that smoking weed was associated with a 64 per cent improvement in urinary urgency symptoms, a 55 per cent improvement in urgency incontinence and a 59 per cent improvement in hesitancy in initiating urination.

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In 2017, a study published in Urology involved collecting urine samples from healthy control subjects and cannabis users to identify any differences in the number and quantity of urine proteins.

Researchers’ observations “potentially indicate activation (or inhibition) of specific signalling pathways in the lower urinary tract during chronic exposure to exogenous cannabinoids,” which includes THC and are defined as “cannabinoids that produce biological effects through their interactions with cannabinoid receptors.”

Study authors concluded more investigation was needed on the “potential role of exocannabinoids in developing therapies to treat LUT disorders.”

Also in Urology, a review of 48 studies from 2020 indicated “cannabinoids appear well-tolerated in the short-term, but their efficacy and long-term impact is unproven and unknown in urologic discomfort.” As such, randomized controlled trials were needed to assess cannabinoids for urologic symptoms.

All that said, authors of the latest study conclude their “data do not support the evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the medical treatment of patients with overactive bladder, especially given the thorny health problems caused by marijuana.”

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