When Did People Start Smoking Marijuana?

It’s unclear how long humans have used Marijuana as a drug, but archaeologists have discovered tools used to burn Psychoactive Marijuana dating back 2,500 years in China. The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung created the first written record of Marijuana use in the year 2727 BC, almost 5,000 years ago. Because of the speed of its growth and the use of hemp for rope and cloth, Marijuana saw use throughout many ancient societies lasting through to the present day. Even though humans have been smoking Marijuana for thousands of years, its effects on the body are still being discovered. As it becomes more legal and more available, knowing those effects has become more important.

Effects Of Smoking Marijuana On The Lungs

When smoked, Marijuana spends most of its time in the lungs. Because they are both most commonly smoked, Marijuana and tobacco are often compared. Cigarettes are thought to cause more bodily harm than smoking Marijuana, but that may not be true in all cases. While cigarettes cause many more deaths each year, smoking Marijuana is actually more damaging in some ways.

Smoking Marijuana deposits 4 times as much tar in the lungs as cigarettes, due in part to the inhalation technique. The common method of smoking Marijuana includes holding the smoke in the lungs for a much longer duration than other smoked substances. This continued exposure allows more of the molecules in the smoke to settle in the respiratory system and may also create long-term issues for the lungs.

Ultimately, lungs are most comfortable when inhaling air. When any substance is burned and inhaled, it creates an inflammatory response in the airways and lungs. Smoking Marijuana can cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. People who self-identify as heavy users report more frequent symptoms of bronchitis and commonly show increased airway resistance. The Guardian reported that smoking a single Marijuana joint “may cause as much damage to the lungs as five chain-smoked cigarettes.”

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Risk Of Lung Cancer

One of the most pressing concerns of smoking Marijuana is whether or not it, like smoking cigarettes, increases the risk of lung cancer. While Marijuana smoke does contain carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), as of yet, no positive link can be established between smoking Marijuana and a significant increase in lung cancer occurrence. Other research demonstrates that THC and CBD, the 2 main active ingredients in Marijuana, may both possess anti-tumor effects. Scientists theorize that this ability could be a reason behind the relative lack of lung cancer incidence in even heavy smokers. 

Research into Marijuana’s effect on the lungs proves challenging for a number of reasons. In the US, Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government; this places barriers between scientists and research. If and when research is approved, several factors can cloud results especially regarding the lungs. Many people who report significant long-term use of Marijuana also report use of cigarettes, which have long been proven to cause cancer. These kinds of factors can distort the results of a study, thus researchers cannot comfortably draw conclusions. 

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Effects Of Smoking Marijuana On The Mouth

Research on the effects Marijuana causes in oral health often runs into the same issues as lung research. Identifying a single substance and its sole effects on the mouth has proven to be a difficult task. Evidence tentatively shows a link between smoking Marijuana and poor dental health, but many people who smoke Marijuana also smoke Nicotine products, drink alcohol, or take poor care of their teeth in general.

Risk Of Testicular Cancer

The data may be unclear when it comes to lung cancer, but new research is starting to reveal a possible link between heavy Marijuana use and testicular cancer. A study including over 40,000 Swedish men has found that, in the 50 years since its start, those men who report heavy use of Marijuana were also more likely to report incidences of testicular cancer.

Scientists are unsure as to what would cause this reaction in the body. Some hypothesize that the way THC and CBD bind to certain cells in the testes can trick the body into processes that lead to the growth of tumor cells. More research needs to be done in order to discover if this link exists or not, but moderation is suggested when it comes to using Marijuana.

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Smoking Marijuana During Pregnancy

More research needs to be done to fully explore the relationship between Marijuana and pregnancy, but the information available generally points in a single direction. Most information suggests that use of Marijuana during pregnancy can have negative effects on the baby at birth and perhaps lasting through childhood. 

If an expectant mother regularly uses Marijuana when pregnant, there is a higher risk of low weight and length for the newborn.

Research also shows that drug or alcohol use during pregnancy can double or almost triple the risk of stillbirth. As a child ages, less research exists to demonstrate any links between Marijuana and possible complications. What little research is available highlights increased rates of poor memory and poor attention skills in children who were exposed to Marijuana in the womb.

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As Marijuana becomes more readily available, the opportunity for abuse will grow as well. But problems don’t have to grow unchecked. If you or a loved one is struggling with a dependence, contact a treatment provider for rehab-related today.



Michael Muldoon

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  • Michael Muldoon earned a B.A. in Media Studies from Penn State University, but instead of shifting into an academic career in social science, he has decided to put his skills to work in the pursuit of helping those struggling with addiction. He enjoys spending his free time at the climbing gym with friends.

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Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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