Marijuana can hurt smokers more than cigarettes alone

Marijuana can hurt smokers more than cigarettes alone

Marijuana may harm smokers more than cigarettes alone.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Radiology showed higher rates of conditions, including emphysema and inflammation of the airways, in people who smoke marijuana than in non-smokers and people who smoked tobacco only. Nearly half of the 56 marijuana smokers whose chest scans were examined for the study had mucus obstructing their airways, a condition less common among the other 90 participants who did not smoke marijuana.

“There’s a public perception that marijuana is safe and people think it’s safer than cigarettes,” said Giselle Revah, a radiologist who helped lead the study at The Ottawa Hospital. in Ontario. “This study raises concerns that may not be true.”

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A fifth of Canadians over the age of 15 said they had used marijuana in the past three months, according to a 2020 survey of some 16,000 people by Canada’s national statistics office. About 18% of Americans reported using marijuana at least once in 2020 in the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey of Drug Use and Health, including about one in three young adults aged from 18 to 25 years old. The investigations did not ask how marijuana was consumed. According to the survey, around a quarter of people over the age of 12 thought that smoking marijuana once or twice a week was very harmful.

Previous studies have shown that marijuana is more likely than tobacco to be smoked unfiltered, and that smokers tend to inhale more smoke and hold it in their lungs longer. Bong smoke contains tiny pollutants that can linger indoors for up to 12 hours, a study published in March in JAMA Network Open showed.

Of the 56 marijuana smokers in the Ottawa study, 50 also smoked tobacco. Tobacco smokers only were patients whose chest scans were taken as part of a high-risk lung cancer screening program that included people 50 and older who had smoked for several years.

Marijuana’s illicit status has long discouraged substantial research into the long-term effects of its use, said Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, who was not involved in the study. Inhale any heated substance can irritate the airways, among other health hazards, he said.

“There could be an additive effect if you smoke cigarettes in addition to marijuana,” Dr. Rizzo said.

Study authors found bronchial thickening in 64% of marijuana smokers versus 42% of tobacco-only smokers and a condition that results in excessive mucus buildup in 23% of marijuana smokers versus 6% of tobacco smokers uniquely.

Marijuana smokers of the same age had higher rates of emphysema (93%) than tobacco-only smokers (67%), and emphysema, which appears on imaging as small holes in lung tissue, was more prevalent among marijuana smokers, the study found.

Write to Julie Wernau at julie.wernau@wsj.com

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