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Study finds smoking marijuana may do more harm to your lungs than smoking cigarettes

Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 17:59:24-05

(WXYZ) — Recreational marijuana has been legal in Michigan since November 2018. Many believe this drug is safe and harmless. But a new study suggests smoking marijuana may be more harmful and do more damage than people realize.

The general perception of marijuana is that it’s absolutely harmless. But this new study out of Canada suggests lung damage is more common in marijuana smokers than in people who only smoke cigarettes.

Researchers examined 150 lung scans taken from marijuana smokers, tobacco smokers as well as nonsmokers. The study found that airway inflammation – called emphysema - was higher in marijuana than in tobacco smokers. Here’s the breakdown. 75% of marijuana smokers had emphysema, compared to just under 70% of tobacco-only smokers. And, no surprise, only 5% of non-smokers were found to have emphysema. This is just another good example of why people shouldn't smoke.

But why is it that marijuana affects the lungs more than cigarettes? It could be because tobacco smoke is filtered, whereas marijuana smoke is not. Also, marijuana smokers breathe in deeply and hold their breath, which can irritate the lungs more. And the longer the exposure, the more toxins you likely inhale.

Now, some people might be wondering, how dangerous is emphysema? Well, I can tell you that it's very bad for your health. It’s the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Emphysema is a form of COPD - chronic obstructive lung disease. And what happens is the air sacs in the lungs get damaged and grow bigger. This reduces the surface area of the lungs, which makes it harder for your lungs to move oxygen into your body and carbon dioxide out of your body.

One thing to understand about emphysema is that people can have it for years and not even know it. The main symptom is shortness of breath, and this typically begins gradually. Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling like you can’t get enough air into your lungs
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Coughing up mucus
  • And feeling unusually tired

Unfortunately, there is no cure for emphysema. However, there are many treatments to help manage symptoms.

In my opinion, this study is a wake-up call. I’m very concerned because marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug here in the US. Back in 2019, there were roughly 48.2 million people using it. I would advise people to cut back or stop using recreational marijuana. But I know that some people depend on this drug to manage pain. If that’s the case, then please speak with your family doctor. There may be other safer alternatives, like an ingestible form.