Smoking marijuana – Effects of short and long term use
When did people start smoking marijuana?
It is not known how long humans have used marijuana as a drug, but archaeologists have discovered tools used to burn psychoactive marijuana dating back 2,500 years in China. Chinese Emperor Shen Nung created the first written record of marijuana use in 2727 BC, almost 5,000 years ago. Due to the speed of its growth and the use of hemp for rope and fabric, marijuana has been used in many ancient societies to the present day. Even though humans have smoked marijuana for thousands of years, its effects on the body are yet to be discovered. As it becomes more legal and more available, it has become more important to know about these effects.
Effects of smoking marijuana on the lungs
When smoked, marijuana spends most of its time in the lungs. Because they are both smoked the most, marijuana and tobacco are often compared. Cigarettes are thought to cause more bodily harm than smoking marijuana, but this may not be true in all cases. While cigarettes cause many more deaths each year, smoking marijuana is actually more damaging in some ways.
Smoking marijuana deposits 4 times more tar in the lungs than cigarettes, in part due to the inhalation technique. The common method of smoking marijuana is to hold the smoke in the lungs for a much longer time than other substances smoked. This continued exposure allows more of the molecules in the smoke to deposit in the respiratory system and can also create long-term problems for the lungs.
Ultimately, the lungs are more comfortable when inhaling air. When a substance is burned and inhaled, it creates an inflammatory response in the airways and lungs. Smoking marijuana can cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. People who identify as heavy users report more frequent symptoms of bronchitis and usually have increased airway resistance. The Guardian reported that smoking a single joint of marijuana “can cause as much damage to the lungs as five chain-smoked cigarettes.”
Risk of lung cancer
One of the most pressing questions concerns the potential lung cancer associated with the use of marijuana. Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens (carcinogenic chemicals) but, as of yet, no positive link can be established between smoking marijuana and a significant increase in the incidence of lung cancer. Other research shows that THC and CBD, the two main active ingredients in marijuana, may both have anti-tumor effects. Scientists hypothesize that this ability could explain the relative low incidence of lung cancer, even in heavy smokers.
Research into the effect of marijuana on the lungs is proving difficult for a number of reasons. In the United States, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government; this places barriers between researchers and the conduct of research. Once research is given the green light, several factors can cloud the results. – especially with regard to the lungs. Many people who report long-term heavy use of marijuana also report smoking, which has been shown to cause cancer. These types of factors can skew the results of a study to the point that researchers cannot easily draw conclusions.
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Effects of smoking marijuana on the mouth
Research on the effects of marijuana on oral health often faces the same problems as research on the lungs. Identifying a substance and its effects on the mouth alone has proven to be a difficult task. Evidence tentatively shows a link between smoking marijuana and poor dental health, but many people who smoke marijuana also smoke nicotine products, drink alcohol, or take poor care of their teeth in general.
Risk of testicular cancer
The data may not be clear when it comes to lung cancer, but new research is starting to reveal a possible link between heavy marijuana use and testicular cancer. A study of more than 40,000 Swedish men found that in the 50 years since its launch, men who reported heavy marijuana use were also more likely to report cases of testicular cancer.
Scientists do not know what would cause this reaction in the body. Some hypothesize that the way THC and CBD bind to certain cells in the testes can lead the body to processes leading to the growth of tumor cells. More research needs to be done to find out whether or not this link exists, but moderation is suggested when it comes to using marijuana.
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Smoking marijuana during pregnancy
More research needs to be done to fully explore the relationship between marijuana and pregnancy, but the information available generally points in one direction. Most of the information suggests that using marijuana during pregnancy can have negative effects on the baby from birth and possibly throughout childhood.
If a pregnant woman regularly uses marijuana during pregnancy, there is a higher risk of low weight and length for the newborn baby.
Research also shows that drug or alcohol use during pregnancy can double or nearly triple the risk of stillbirth. As a child ages, there is less research to show links between marijuana and possible complications. The limited research available points to increased rates of poor memory and poor attention span in children who have been exposed to marijuana in the womb.
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As marijuana becomes more readily available, the possibilities for abuse will also increase. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please contact a treatment provider for rehabilitation today.