Marijuana Smokers Face Rapid Lung Disease

Marijuana Smokers Face Rapid Lung Disease

Researchers have found that the development of bullous lung disease (also known as bullae) occurs in marijuana smokers about 20 years earlier than tobacco smokers. This condition is often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, and occurs when air is trapped in the lungs, which causes obstructed breathing and eventual lung destruction.

The study “Bullous Lung Disease due to Marijuana” found that the mean age of marijuana-smoking patients with lung problems was 41, compared with the average age of 65 for tobacco-smoking patients. In 2008, about 10% of young adults and 1% of adults smoke marijuana regularly.

The study also found the bullous lung disease can be hard to detect as patients suffering from it may show normal X-rays and lung function. A high-resolution CT scan was necessary to reveal bullae in the patients studied.

Lead author Dr. Matthew Naughton says that because marijuana is inhaled as extremely hot fumes and held for as long as possible before slow exhalation, the lungs are predisposed to greater damage, which makes marijuana smokers more prone to bullous disease as compared to cigarette smokers.

Marijuana smokers inhale more and hold their breath four times longer than cigarette smokers, which results in greater and more rapid lung destruction. Naughton says, “What is outstanding about this study is the relatively young ages of the lung disease patients, as well as the lack of abnormality on chest X-rays and lung functions in nearly half of the patients we tested.”

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