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article imageRandom pot use has no adverse effects on lungs, new study shows

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 12, 2012 in Health
Birmingham - A new study has found infrequent use of marijuana does not appear to have a detrimental effect on the health of lungs, with a certain amount of lung health improving slightly, according to a new study.
The Journal of the American Medical Association has published the results of a 20-year study, conducted from 1985 until 2006, in which researches regularly asked participants about past and current use of cigarettes and marijuana.
“There’s no doubt, if you’ve watched a Harold & Kumar movie, marijuana triggers a cough,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama, who helped research the study, according to Reuters.
“Previous studies have had mixed results,” Kertesz added. “Some have hinted at an increase in lung air flow rates and lung volume (with marijuana smoking), and others have not found that. Others have found hints of harm.”
Although marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke, pot users tend to smoke fewer joints on a daily basis than tobacco users who smoke cigarettes. This factor, combined with inhaling methods, could offer some lung protection, the researchers propose.
The new data was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and was conducted in Oakland, California; Chicago; Birmingham; and Minneapolis from 1985 until 2006. The long-term study involved 5,115 young people who, in addition to questions on past and current use, were tested on lung capacities, including maximum air flow rate from lungs.
According to the research, the more cigarettes the study group smoked, the poorer their lungs performed in both tests, but moderate levels of pot smoking did not appear to harm the lungs. The study expressed marijuana use in joint-years, with one joint-year of exposure being equivalent to smoking 365 joints or filled pipe bowls.
Air flow rates and lung volume actually increased with each joint-year participants smoked, up to around 2,555 joints.
The study concluded the random hit of pot “was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.”
Substance abuse experts, however, say the study does not give marijuana a free ride concerning long-term health effects.
“I think a lot more work will need to be done to make any blanket statements about safety,” said Dr. Jeanette Tetrault, a Yale School of Medicine substance abuse researcher not connected with the study, Reuters notes.
The new study follows research released last March which found long-time heavy pot users do not increase their risk of lung cancer.
A study of more than 2,000 participants with varied smoking habits found no connection between smoking pot and lung, head or neck cancers.
Dr. Donald Tashkin, with the University of California at Los Angeles, and lead researcher of the study, speculates THC, a chemical found in pot smoke, may “encourage aging cells to die earlier and therefore be less likely to undergo cancerous transformation,” the Globe and Mail reported.
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