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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.”


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 marijuana make me cough and how do I stop it?

It’s real and it can be annoying: Here’s how to combat toker’s cough

While smoking cannabis isn’t entirely without health risks, observable adverse effects are far milder than those associated with tobacco use. Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

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    I don’t think there is a person living in the world who can honestly claim they have never coughed after toking on cannabis. It seems to be part of the experience for some folks. But why does it happen? How can you minimize it? And is this a sign that it’s harmful?

    Let’s address the last question first. Hacking up a lung can’t be healthy, right? Right. Incessant coughing means that your lungs are being irritated and it is reacting to the irritant. But is it causing long-term damage to my lungs? Probably not. At least when it comes to the potential of lung cancer.

    Why does marijuana make me cough and how do I stop it? Back to video

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    A landmark 2006 UCLA study conducted by Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years, found no connection between cannabis use and lung cancer, even with heavy use. “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” Taskin said. “What we found instead was no association at all and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”


    Article content continued

    Taskin’s research suggests that the coughing fits are a short-term issue that does not appear to have a lasting health impact. “Chronic cough—often accompanied by increased production of phlegm and wheezing, but not shortness of breath—occurs in over approximately 25 percent of habitual smokers of marijuana and resolves soon after cessation of marijuana use, provided that the marijuana smoker does not also smoke tobacco. The precise amount of time before symptoms resolve after marijuana use is discontinued has not been carefully studied.”

    Another UCLA study, this one from 2013, concludes that “regular smoking of marijuana by itself causes visible and microscopic injury to the large airways that is consistently associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of chronic bronchitis that subside after cessation of use.”

    What the science tells us at this point is that, yes, many cannabis consumers will cough after a session. And lung irritation will be a side effect for some. But once you quit — or take a hiatus from the herb — your long-term lung function should not be affected. Lungs are highly adaptive organs. More experienced tokers appear to be able to “train” their lungs to hold the smoke better than beginners. For some of us lucky ones, the dreaded toker’s cough is not an issue. But if you suffer from this malady, here are some ways to improve the experience:

    Stop Smoking

    Wait, don’t stop reading! I mean give the bong or pipe a rest and eat your cannabis. Edible marijuana is an option if you just can’t handle the coughing jags. It will take longer to feel the effect and it will stay in your system longer, but your lungs will be happier.

    Take Smaller Hits

    When you cough, your lungs are telling you to back off. Your lungs can only take so much smoke at one time. If you feel your lung capacity is smaller than simply take mini-puffs. Don’t worry: You will still get your dose of THC. It will just be a slower, milder and more enjoyable experience.

    Don’t Hold The Smoke

    I see this a lot. Some smokers feel that holding the smoke in your lungs for long periods of time will get you more high. Wrong. All you are doing is damaging your lungs. The tars present in the combusted plant matter absorb at a slower rate than cannabinoids, so all you are doing is allowing the tar to irritate your lungs.

    Try Vaping

    If smoking is too harsh on your lungs, give vaporization a try. Vaporizers do not combust the plant material, instead gently warming it to a temperature that creates water vapor. It’s a lot easier on your lungs. There are some people who also suffer from bouts of coughing using vaporizers. Once again, try smaller tokes., a US lifestyle site, that contributes lifestyle content and, with their partnership with 600,000 physicians via Skipta, medical marijuana information to The GrowthOp.

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    It’s real and it can be annoying: Here’s how to combat toker’s cough