With the increasing legalization of marijuana use in recent years, concerns about its impact on health, particularly lung health, have also grown. Many individuals are interested in understanding the potential effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs.
And the news thus far isn’t great… According to a study published in Radiology, marijuana smoking may be more damaging to the lungs than cigarette smoking.
Research published Tuesday in Radiology found that emphysema ( a serious lung condition that causes shortness of breath) and airway inflammation are more common in marijuana smokers compared to cigarette smokers. The study compared chest CT scans from marijuana smokers, tobacco-only smokers, and nonsmokers. The results showed that three-quarters of the marijuana smokers had emphysema, while 67 percent of tobacco-only smokers had the condition.
Nonsmokers had a significantly lower rate of emphysema at just 5 percent. The study also found that airway inflammation was more frequent among marijuana smokers compared to both nonsmokers and tobacco-only smokers.
The findings were surprising because it was expected that tobacco smokers, who consume more cigarettes per day than cannabis smokers, would have higher rates of respiratory system irritation.
However, the study suggests that marijuana may have unique properties that can damage the airways.
The predominant subtype of emphysema observed in marijuana smokers was paraseptal emphysema, which affects the tiny ducts connecting to the air sacs in the lungs.
Hence, the study provides support for previous evidence suggesting a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of developing emphysema. However, it also contradicts other research that has claimed marijuana to be less harmful to the lungs compared to tobacco.
Emphysema is a type of lung disease that causes breathlessness. It is usually caused by cigarette smoking. There is no cure, but the condition can be managed using medications and adjustments to lifestyle.Signs and symptoms of emphysema take years to develop, but once they start, they generally include shortness of breath, coughing with mucus, wheezing and chest tightness.
Also, strong evidence suggests that using marijuana and tobacco concurrently may be more detrimental to the lungs than either drug individually.
The study did not determine the specific reasons behind the differences between marijuana and cigarette smokers, but the authors suggested some factors. Marijuana is often smoked unfiltered, while tobacco is often smoked filtered, which may result in more particulates entering the lungs of marijuana users.
Additionally, marijuana smokers inhale with a longer hold of breath and a larger volume of smoke compared to cigarette smokers.
It is important to note that further research involving larger groups of people and more data on smoking habits is needed to better understand the impact of marijuana smoking on lung health. Different inhalation techniques, such as using a bong, joint, or pipe, should also be considered in future studies. Overall, the study suggests that marijuana smoking may pose risks to lung health and that the perception of marijuana as harmless needs to be reconsidered.