Smoking Marijuana

Medical researchers are constantly learning more about cannabis as it becomes more readily available for study. Even as arguably the most commonly used illegal drug, the effects of smoking marijuana are not well known.

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    When Did People Start Smoking Marijuana?

    Even as arguably the most commonly used illegal drug, the effects of smoking marijuana are not well known.It’s unclear how long humans have used cannabis 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 cannabis use in the year 2727 B.C., almost 5,000 years ago. Because of the speed of its growth and its use as hemp for ropes and cloths, cannabis saw use throughout many ancient societies lasting through to the present day. Even though we’ve been smoking marijuana for thousands of years, its effects on our bodies 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 and than smoking marijuana, but that isn’t the case. While cigarettes cause many more deaths each year, smoking marijuana is actually more damaging.

    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, but does it create long term issues for the lungs?

    Ultimately, lungs are most comfortable when inhaling air. When you burn anything and inhale the smoke, 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 change-smoked cigarettes.”

    Risk of Lung Cancer

    One of the most pressing questions revolves around potential lung cancer associated with smoking marijuana. Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) but, 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 two 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, which places barriers between researchers and conducting research. Once research is green-lit, several factors can cloud results, especially in regard to the lungs. Many people who report  significant long-term use of marijuana also report use of cigarettes, which have been proven to cause cancer. These kinds of factors can distort the results of a study to the point where researchers cannot comfortably draw conclusions. 

    Effects of Smoking Marijuana on the Mouth

    Research on the effects cannabis causes in oral health often runs into the same issues as lung research. Identifying one 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

    A study shows there may be a link between smoking marijuana and the risk of developing 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 cannabis use and testicular cancer. A study including over 40,000 Swedish men has found that in the 50 years since its started, 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. They hypothesize that the way THC and CBD bind to certain cells in the testes can trick your 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 they suggest moderation 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 one 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 close to triple the risk of stillbirth. As a child ages, less research exists to demonstrate any links between marijuana and possible complications. What little research we do have highlights an 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. If you or a loved one are struggling with a dependence, please reach out to a treatment provider today. Help is available and ready to get you on the road to recovery.

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