NOV 28, 2023 4:30 PM PST

Impact of Marijuana and Cigarette Smoking on Lung Health: A Prospective Study

A recent study presented at the 109th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America examines the potential for increased damage to the lung’s air sacs for individuals who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes. This study was conducted by a team of Canadian researchers and medical professionals and comes as scientists are continuing to learn more about the harmful effects of smoking marijuana, which has long been hypothesized to not result in the same harmful effects as smoking cigarettes.

“Marijuana is the most widely used illicit psychoactive substance in the world, and its use has increased in Canada since the legalization of non-medical marijuana in 2018,” said Dr. Jessie Kang, M.D., who is a cardiothoracic radiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and a co-author on the study. “Currently, not much research exists on the effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed CT scans of patients comprised of four groups: non-smokers, marijuana smokers, cigarette smokers, and a combination of the two. The researchers established guidelines for marijuana smokers, which included having smoked marijuana at least four times per month over the previous 24 months, along with not having ingested marijuana through edibles or drops.

In the end, the results showed a 12 times greater risk of the patients in the combination group compared to the non-smokers in developing centrilobular emphysema, which is where the lung’s air sacs are damaged and can develop into more serious respiratory complications, as well.

“With our study, we show that there are physical effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs and that cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking may have a combined damaging effect on the lungs,” said Dr. Kang.

What new discoveries will researchers make about the links between smoking marijuana and lung damage in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Radiological Society of North America, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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