Smoking marijuana more deadly in cigarette smokers: study

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Smoking marijuana in combination with cigarettes may cause more damage to the lungs than cigarettes alone, a new study suggests.

A study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Radiology found that marijuana use may be linked to an increased risk of emphysema compared to smoking tobacco alone. The trend is made more concerning by the fact that cannabis users were on average younger – most were under 50 – than cigarette smokers.

Emphysema develops over time as lung tissue is damaged and causes air sacs to rupture and trap air in the damaged tissue and prevent oxygen from moving through the bloodstream. It can cause shortness of breath, cough with mucus, wheezing and chest tightness and is irreversible once it develops.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease, despite it being one of the most preventable respiratory illnesses.

Researchers from the Department of Radiology at Ottawa Hospital found that 75% of people in the study who smoked marijuana, possibly in addition to tobacco, had developed emphysema, while only 67% of smokers who only smoked tobacco showed signs of the disease. Only 5% of complete non-smokers were diagnosed.

In addition, they found that paraseptal emphysema, a specific subtype of the disease that affects the outer parts of the lung, is more common in marijuana smokers than in those who only smoke tobacco.

The study assessed chest scans of 56 marijuana smokers — 50 of whom were also current or former tobacco users — 33 tobacco-only smokers and 57 nonsmokers, taken between 2005 and 2020.

But the small-scale study of 150 participants in Canada had limitations. Researchers have not collected enough data on how subjects consumed cannabis, how often they smoked it or how long they maintained the habit. The way cannabis users inhale the substance makes a difference: Blunts, for example, contain tobacco in the packaging.

Smokers who smoked only tobacco in the study were found to have consumed at least one pack — 20 cigarettes — per day for the past 25 years.

Researchers also did not take into account other previous health problems.

“There is a public perception that marijuana is safe, or that it is safer than cigarettes. But this study raises concerns that this may not be true,” said lead study author Dr. Giselle Revah, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Ottawa, in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

“The American Lung Association says clean air is the only thing that should get into your lungs, so if you inhale something, it could potentially be toxic to your lungs,” Revah said in a CNN report.

“There is certainly a concern that we will see a new generation of lung disease associated with these behaviors,” Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, told USA Today.

Researchers point out that marijuana and tobacco are smoked differently, with marijuana smokers usually inhaling deeper and longer, while tobacco is usually smoked with rapid exhalations. Conventionally manufactured cigarettes also have a filter, which can trap certain harmful toxins.

Because of its limitations, experts admit the study cannot fully compare the safety of marijuana and tobacco, but they agreed that the findings suggest more research needs to be done as use of the drug increases. E-cigarettes are also growing in popularity and should be included in future research.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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