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April AnnalsATS.

Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lungs

In the upcoming June Annals of the American Thoracic Society, Donald P. Tashkin, MD, emeritus professor of medicine and medical director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, reviews research on the effects of marijuana smoking on the lungs.

Dr. Tashkin found 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. He also found that the evidence does not indicate that habitual use of marijuana leads to significant abnormalities in lung function when assessed either cross-sectionally or longitudinally, except for possible increases in lung volumes and modest increases in airway resistance of unclear clinical significance.

The author finds no clear link between marijuana use and the development of COPD or lower respiratory tract infections. In addition, "findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use, although evidence is mixed concerning possible carcinogenic risks of heavy, long-term use," Dr. Tashkin notes. "In summary, the accumulated weight of evidence implies far lower risks for pulmonary complications of even regular heavy use of marijuana compared to the grave pulmonary consequences of tobacco."

AnnalsATS Highlights

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  • Elements of a High-Quality Inpatient Consultation in the Intensive Care Unit: A Qualitative Study
  • A Typical Case of Atypical Dyspnea