How Marijuana Affects Your Lungs

How Marijuana Affects Your Lungs

Many studies have focused on how marijuana affects lung health and the long-term effects it can have.

Following the legalization and decriminalization of weed in certain states, lots of people have taken to smoking cannabis in hopes of experiencing some physical benefits; however, if you’ve developed the habit of smoking weed, then you may be at serious risk of experiencing issues with your lung health.

What’s in Marijuana Smoke?

Can weed affect your lungs? The simple answer is yes. Marijuana, also known as weed or cannabis, is a mixture of dried flowers from the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants. The active chemical component in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for producing psychological side effects in smokers. While weed can be ingested in a variety of ways, the most common method is smoking it in blunts, joints, bongs, or pipes. Similar to tobacco, how marijuana affects your lungs can be attributed to the chemical properties it contains. When comparing marijuana vs tobacco, it’s been discovered that weed actually contains the same toxins and carcinogens as tobacco, including ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The smoking method you use also contributes to how marijuana affects your lungs. When smokers use bongs or vapes, for example, they may also be inhaling water, adding moisture to the lungs that can worsen side effects.

Despite what many believe, weed can be addictive and many people have found themselves struggling to quit. If you or someone you know has this issue, Banyan Chicago offers a partial hospitalization program that can help. Our PHP in Illinois allows patients to heal from their addiction while learning how to incorporate what they learn into their daily lives.

How Does Weed Affect Your Lungs?

In addition to these harmful chemicals, marijuana smokers also tend to inhale more deeply and hold smoke longer in their lungs to experience a stronger high. Because of these carcinogens and smoking methods, marijuana’s effects on the lungs can cause permanent respiratory problems. Marijuana smoke can irritate the lungs and cause coughing, wheezing, and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

The most common effects of smoking weed on the lungs include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Lung irritation
  • Irritation of the airways
  • Burnt mouth or throat
  • Phlegm
  • Trouble breathing

Heavy weed smokers also run the risk of developing asthma, cystic fibrosis, and lung cancer. The effects of smoking marijuana on the lungs also include the formation of large air sacs called bullae. Bullae can make breathing difficult and can cause a collapsed lung if it ruptures. Cannabis can also worsen symptoms in people with preexisting lung conditions.

As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Chicago, we’re well aware of how marijuana affects your lungs and overall health. If you or a loved one has found themselves unable to quit using marijuana or any other substance, 888-280-4763 to learn which of our levels of care is best for you.


NIH - A comparison of mainstream and side stream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions

Related Reading: 

New Year, New Laws: Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.