When you inhale marijuana smoke, you are introducing foreign substances into your lungs. Research scientists and physicians have long expected that inhaling foreign substances can damage your lungs and ultimately cause cancer. Moreover, those scientists have determined that marijuana smoke contains greater concentrations of the carcinogenic chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke. The expectation is that marijuana smoke is a likely culprit in lung cancer, but research has only theorized this link without yet showing definitive proof of it.
Side Effects of Marijuana
Perhaps the greatest behavioral difference between cigarette and marijuana smokers is that cigarette smokers expose their lungs to smoke several times a day at regular intervals. Heavy marijuana users might smoke pot every day, but many people who use marijuana limit their usage to a few times per month. Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic substances than tobacco smoke, and marijuana users inhale more deeply and hold marijuana smoke in their lungs for a longer period of time, thus further exposing lung tissue to cancer-causing chemicals. Yet because marijuana smokers are not using marijuana as much as cigarette smokers might be smoking tobacco, the question of whether marijuana smoke causes cancer may be skewed toward the negative.
The scientific research is clearer regarding how marijuana smoke can damage a user’s lungs. Marijuana use has been linked to chronic bronchitis and marijuana smoke is known to damage the cellular structure in the large airways of a smoker’s lungs. Marijuana smokers might develop chronic coughs or lung congestion. Smokers whose immune systems are compromised by diseases such as HIV are more susceptible to developing lung infections when they smoke marijuana. In general, regular marijuana smokers will experience the same lung problems as tobacco users.
Excessive marijuana can damage your lungs and overall metabolism in other ways. Marijuana smoke has been linked to reduced brain and cognitive function. Although the conclusion is speculative, these adverse cognitive effects might preclude heavy marijuana users from recognizing or acknowledging symptoms of lung or other metabolic problems, and they might delay seeking medical treatment for those problems until they have progressed to an unmanageable stage.
Social and Legal Climate of Marijuana
Even advocates of marijuana legalization are often quick to emphasize that the current research on whether marijuana smoke causes lung cancer should not be interpreted either as an endorsement for smoking marijuana, or as an indictment of the dangers of marijuana use. The best consensus conclusion that can be drawn is that marijuana smoke does introduce potentially dangerous or carcinogenic substances into your lungs. Whether your lungs and overall metabolism are robust enough to handle those substances is a question that cannot be answered globally.
If you have any questions or concerns over the risks you are taking when you smoke marijuana, please contact the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600 for answers to your questions. We treat all inquiries in a confidential and professional manner and, if you so desire, we are ready to help you to end your marijuana habit.