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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.

How Not to Cough When Smoking Weed

Some people believe that coughing while smoking weed induces a greater high and that it means the weed is just really strong.

Well, that’s not the case. Coughing is annoying and should be a red flag telling you to take it easy.

Anyway, there are probably not many people who enjoy the benefits of marijuana without having coughed at least once while doing so.

What we know for sure is that coughing is a sign that your precious lungs are irritated and that they are reacting negatively to cannabis.

But does it mean that smoking weed hurts your lungs in the long run?

Research on Coughing

A UCLA research from 2013 shows that the coughing caused by smoking weed is a short term issue that does not have a lasting health impact.

It also says that daily use of marijuana alone does not lead to any problems in lung function, except for possible increases in lung volume and modest increases in airway resistance of unclear clinical importance.

Therefore, no clear link to chronic obstructive lung disease has been established, for now.

Approximetly 25% of people cough while smoking, especially if they are tobacco users. That’s exactly the problem with existing research – there aren’t any studies only on subjects who have never smoked tobacco.

Lungs are very adaptive organs, and if you quit smoking for a while, they will recuperate and you will see that the coughing stopped.

We are here to help by showing you different ways of preventing coughing.

Try Weed-Infused Edibles

If you cough a lot every time you smoke, maybe you should stop for a while. Or – you could try edibles instead.

If you’ve never tried them, you may be surprised by how much you’ll enjoy this way of cannabis consumption.

It doesn’t make your mouth dry and there isn’t that burning feeling in your lungs.

There is also the thrill of trying out new flavors and figuring out which suits you best.

The cannabis edibles market is ever-growing, catering to food junkies with products such as canna chocolate, brownies or lollipops.

There is even weed honey, which is actually a well known-remedy for coughing and immunity, all in one.

Sure, it will take some time until you feel the effects of edibles (and THC will stay in your system longer), but your lungs will thank you for it.

How Long Does Weed Stay in Your System? [Precise Calculator]

Take Smaller Hits

If you cough a lot while smoking weed, those are your lungs telling you to stop.

They are a sensitive organ, and can take in a limited amount of smoke at a time.

So, if your lung capacity isn’t as large as once was, simply take mini-puffs.

And don’t worry, you will still get your dose of THC.

It will just be a more relaxed, smaller, but certainly a more enjoyable experience.

A lot of people still think that if you take one giant hit and cough while doing so, you’ll get as high as the sky.

That’s simply wrong, so go easy and take your time.

Are You Inhaling and Holding Your Weed?

Some smokers believe that you need to inhale and hold your smoke in for as long as you can to get high.

Another thing that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You need to learn how to do this properly because you’ll be inhaling your weed regardless of your preferred smoking method.

Actually, holding it in will not do anything to get you more high, but it can be harmful to your lungs and throat.

It’s better if you do a slow, deep inhale and let the smoke gently fill your lungs; then after just a few seconds, slowly exhale.

This is the most comfortable and effective way to smoke marijuana.

Also be careful not to swallow the smoke, because it isn’t good for you either. Not only will you cough a lot, but it could lead to stomachache.

Different Ways to Smoke Weed

Try Vaping

If smoking cannabis has become too painful for your lungs, but you love smoking it, maybe you should try vaping.

In the last decade, vaping has become one of the most popular ways of cannabis consuming.

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to vaporizers (both for dry herb, or concentrates).

Vaporizers do not combust marijuana ingredients, but instead gently warm weed to the temperature you choose. That creates water vapor.

Because of this feature and a vaping system for filtering the smoke, this is a more pleasant option for your lungs; smokers should definitely try it.

Vaping vs Smoking: Will Cannabis Legalization 2.0 Be the Death of Smoking Pot?

Bong Vaping

A lot of people nowadays are choosing a bong or a glass pipe to inhale their cannabis, and this is also a method that can make you cough.

If you are a pro bong kind of person, be sure to use a percolator for your device.

A percolator is an additional water component for your bong that serves as an extra filter.

It can help a lot while inhaling the smoke, and can prevent coughing.

The trick is to fill it up with water, or ice, if you tend to cough a lot.

The ice in the water will make it even cooler, and it will not irritate your throat as much.

Also, always choose a quality bong. Better glass that plastic, that’s for sure.

Know Your Cannabis Strain

This is probably the most important facet of using marijuana that many new users take for granted. Old-school stoners know that a cannabis strain can make a huge difference.

There are two basic kinds of marijuana: Sativa and Indica. They both have their unique effect on a smoker.

Indica provides a more mellow and calming high, while Sativa is stronger and intense.

Indica makes you more relaxed, and that is why it’s recommended for first-time smokers.

Sativa is good for partying and going out, just doing stuff.

Nowadays, more strains are hybrid (a mixture of these two), but it’s important to know the particular Sativa and Indica traits and be able to recognize them in a strain.

Seasoned stoners may be able to tell which cannabis strain will make you cough less (or more). However, instead of vouching for some non-cough-producing strains, which is a slippery topic and would be risky to make any guarantees, we’d rather tell you this:

Strains that haven’t been cured properly, or strains that have larger quantities of the terpene caryophyllene (which has a peppery taste) or strains with a high percentage of THC – they could make you cough more. The question is: how can you tell if the strain you want to buy has been cured long enough?

So, the important thing is to try and experiment with different strains until you find those that suit your needs at different times and occasions.

Also, try to be as informed as possible about your distributor and what they are selling.

Take your time in researching strains that are available to you, and it will help you, for sure.

Store Your Weed Right

If you need to stay away from weed for a while, make sure that it is stored in an adequate container.

Dark, cool and dry places are better for keeping the weed fresh.

Always choose glass containers over plastic ones. They will keep your cannabis as fresh as possible, and not dry it out.

If the herb is too dry, it will irritate your throat, and the effect won’t be too pleasant.

What Is the Best Way to Store Weed so It Doesn’t Dry Out?

Extra Tips

  • Drink a lot of water. It is important to stay hydrated while smoking and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Chew gum or mint because that will produce more saliva and it can help relax the throat.
  • Create a greater distance between your mouth and the joint.
  • Always use high-quality bud. Chemicals in some suspicious strains can produce harsher coughing and are not good for you in any way.
  • Try cough drops – menthol can soothe the irritated throat.
  • Always grind your herb to the smallest bits, even if you don’t have a grinder.
  • Avoid smoking herb right after you wake up because that’s when the throat is most sensitive.

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Summing It Up

If you are a first-time smoker and you experience coughing, try different strains and see which suits you best.

If you are an experienced smoker but you started coughing, maybe you should try vaping, or a different method of cannabis use, such as edibles.

Learn how to store your weed, how to roll it correctly, how not to pack too much, etc.

We live in an age with endless possibilities.

You just have to find what’s good for you when it comes to using weed, because every person has their own sensibility.

Whatever option you decide to go with, we hope our tips and tricks have helped you so you have a much cooler and more relaxing cannabis smoking/vaping/eating/drinking experience, without any side effects.

Greencamp explores how smoking pot affects coughing, and shows you cool tips and tricks how not to cough when using weed.