Is Smoking Marijuana More Harmful to Lungs Than Cigarettes?


Is Smoking Marijuana More Harmful to Lungs Than Cigarettes?
The debate on the effects of marijuana on lung health is ongoing, with various studies suggesting differing outcomes. A Mayo Clinic Health System article highlights the potential lung cancer risk associated with marijuana use, while a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society by UCLA researchers found that regular marijuana smoking can damage the cilia, or hairs, lining the large airways.

However, there’s an aspect of potential benefit as well. The deep sucking inhalation associated with smoking marijuana may stretch lung tissue and strengthen chest wall muscles, potentially enabling users to inhale and exhale more forcefully. This finding, suggesting a possible respiratory benefit, comes with a significant caveat: it should not be interpreted as proof that smoking marijuana is beneficial for lung health.

When it comes to safety, Harvard Health advises against smoking cannabis, which can inflame the lungs. Alternatives like under-the-tongue tinctures, edibles, topicals, or dry herb vaporizers are recommended. For those who do smoke, it’s advised not to hold the smoke in the lungs for more than a couple of seconds, as this doesn’t enhance the effect but can irritate the lungs.

The irritation and potential harm extend to acute bronchospasm, a sudden constriction of the airways making breathing difficult and causing coughing. This concern is raised in a Northwell Health article.

Adding to the complexity, a recent Canadian study published in the journal Radiology suggests that smoking marijuana might lead to worse lung damage than tobacco. The study, comparing CT scans of marijuana smokers, tobacco smokers, and nonsmokers, found a higher prevalence of emphysema, particularly paraseptal emphysema, in marijuana smokers.

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Interestingly, a UCSF-led study contrasts this by suggesting that low to moderate marijuana use is less harmful to users’ lungs than tobacco. This paradoxical situation is further complicated by the legal status of marijuana, which has been legalized in several states for medical or recreational use, yet remains a subject of ongoing scientific and medical debate.

In conclusion, while there is evidence of potential lung damage from smoking marijuana, there is also a need for further research to understand the full extent and nature of these effects. As the use of marijuana continues to grow, so does the importance of understanding its impact on lung health.

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