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Even Once-a-Week Pot Smokers Have More Cough, Phlegm

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MONDAY, July 2, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Smoking marijuana once a week can cause coughing, wheezing and phlegm, all signs of chronic bronchitis, a new evidence review reports.

Pot smoking doubles a person’s risk of developing a regular hacking cough. It also triples the risk of coughing up phlegm and suffering from wheezy constricted breathing, researchers found.

“We know that smoke from tobacco and other entities — including burning wood in your fireplace — causes chronic bronchitis, so it’s not at all surprising they found chronic bronchitis in prior marijuana research,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific adviser to the American Lung Association.

Edelman said he’s concerned that heavy marijuana use could lead to larger health problems for those who develop chronic bronchitis.

“You would worry about people being more susceptible to pneumonia, and of course, the end result of chronic bronchitis, if it persists long enough and is severe enough, is what we call COPD — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Edelman said.

About half of tobacco smokers get COPD, he said. “It will be interesting to see what percentage of regular marijuana smokers get COPD,” he added.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group supporting reform of marijuana laws, said the study findings are “consistent with prior data.”

“It is hardly surprising that the habitual inhalation of combustive smoke may be associated with specific, though generally mild respiratory symptoms, like cough,” he said.

“However, unlike the inhalation of tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke exposure — even long-term — is not associated with the kind of serious respiratory effects that are often identified with long-term tobacco use, such as COPD, emphysema or lung cancer,” Armentano said.

About 13 percent of adults and 21 percent of young adults are believed to be regular pot users.

Marijuana legalization has led to the development of many alternatives to smoking pot, such as cannabis-infused edibles, oils and concentrates, Armentano said.

For the evidence review, researchers led by Dr. Mehrnaz Ghasemiesfe, from the San Francisco VA Medical Center, analyzed data from 22 studies of the effects of pot smoking on lung health.

Analysis of two prospective studies (ones that watch for outcomes such as disease development) found pot smoking associated with a doubled risk of cough and a nearly quadrupled risk of phlegm, the results showed.

Combined analysis of other studies revealed an increased risk of cough (4.3 times); phlegm (3.4 times); wheezing (2.8 times); and shortness of breath (1.5 times).

Some are concerned that as more U.S. states legalize pot, more people will develop lung problems.

“Because some of the worst effects of smoking take years to show effect, it took time until we had established clear and undeniable risks of cancer, heart disease and other major medical problems that were caused by smoking tobacco,” said Dr. Adam Lackey, chief of thoracic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

“I worry that we are looking at a similar situation with marijuana,” he said. “People need to realize that we just don’t know yet what the long-term effect of marijuana smoking is. This study shows that marijuana smoking certainly isn’t totally benign.”

QUESTION

At the same time, Edelman, the lung association adviser, doubts marijuana will be as harmful as tobacco, simply because it’s not smoked as much.

“My guess is that not many marijuana users smoke 20 joints a day, which would be equivalent to a pack a day for a cigarette smoker,” he said.

“I don’t think the smoke of marijuana is necessarily less toxic than the smoke of tobacco. It’s just that in general, people who use marijuana smoke fewer marijuana cigarettes than people who smoke tobacco,” Edelman said.

The new study was published July 2 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Copyright © 2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Smoking marijuana once a week can cause coughing, wheezing and phlegm, all signs of chronic bronchitis, a new evidence review reports.

Why Does Weed Make You Cough?

If you’ve experienced a coughing fit after smoking cannabis, you’re not alone. It’s a common, natural response to smoke inhalation.

Sometimes, though, coughing can occur even when you’re not smoking. This is more likely to happen if you regularly smoke cannabis.

To learn why smoking cannabis can make you cough, read on. We’ll also explore how smoking cannabis might affect lung health, along with the risk of lung cancer.

Your throat and lungs are lined with sensory nerves. They work to detect irritating substances, like smoke, in your airways.

If you inhale an irritant, the nerves send signals throughout your respiratory tract. This produces a cough reflex, which helps you get rid of the irritating substance. The goal is to protect your respiratory tract, and ultimately, your lungs.

This is what happens when you smoke cannabis. The smoke irritates your airways, causing your nerves to trigger a cough reflex. It’s a normal reaction to inhaling any kind of smoke.

Research suggests that coughing related to cannabis smoking is usually due to short-term effects, rather than long-term damage. Let’s take a look at the research.

Bronchitis

According to a 2013 review, smoking cannabis causes tiny injuries to the large airways, or bronchi. Your bronchi are the passages that connect your trachea (windpipe) to your lungs.

This increases your risk for chronic bronchitis, or inflamed bronchi, which causes frequent coughing. Chronic bronchitis typically goes away when you stop regularly smoking.

Defense against infection

Habitual smoking also decreases cilia in the airways. Cilia are small hairs that filter out particles and germs. And though habitual smoking reduces your lungs’ defense against infection, it isn’t associated with long-term damage, according to the 2013 review.

Long-term lung function

A 2012 study specifically examined the link between smoking cannabis and long-term lung function over a 20-year period. The researchers found that occasional smoking wasn’t linked to adverse lung function.

Though they speculated that heavy smoking can cause lasting damage, they weren’t able to make a solid conclusion. The study lacked enough participants who heavily smoked cannabis.

It’s worth noting that smoking cannabis is associated with lasting lung damage if you also smoke tobacco. In a 2016 study , people who smoked cannabis and tobacco were more likely to have impaired lung function than those who only smoked tobacco.

Despite these findings, scientists are still learning how smoking cannabis affects lung health over time. More long-term studies are necessary.

According to a 2020 study , cannabis smoke contains 110 compounds with potentially toxic properties. Sixty-nine of these compounds are also found in tobacco smoke. As a result, many people wonder if smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer.

The research is mixed. A 2015 meta-analysis found a weak link between long-term cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk. An older 2006 study also found no association between long-term smoking and lung cancer.

However, a 2013 study , which spanned over 40 years, found that frequently smoking cannabis doubles the risk of lung cancer. The association persisted after the researchers adjusted their data for tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and respiratory disease.

Similarly, an older 2008 study found a connection between cannabis smoking and lung cancer after adjusting for cigarette smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it’s difficult to confirm a solid link. That’s because cannabis use often occurs alongside other behaviors that increase lung cancer risk, including cigarette smoking.

Therefore, more studies are needed involving people who smoke cannabis and not cigarettes.

It’s also possible for lung cancer to cause coughing. In this case, the coughing will be persistent or get worse over time. Other common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • coughing blood
  • chest pain
  • hoarseness
  • poor appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue
  • new wheezing
  • shortness of breath

Keep in mind that coughing has many potential causes. If you’re concerned about your coughing, visit your doctor.

As mentioned earlier, regularly smoking cannabis can lead to chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you have coughing and mucus for at least 3 months for 2 consecutive years.

Since chronic bronchitis causes persistent coughing, you’ll likely cough even when you’re not smoking. The cough might come and go, and it might get worse on some days. You may also have wheezing.

If you have chronic bronchitis due to smoking cannabis, quitting will decrease your symptoms.

Smoke can produce a cough reflex, which is your body’s way of getting rid of irritants. Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of smoking cannabis.