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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.”

SLIDESHOW

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.

Is It Safe to Smoke Weed If You Have a Cold or the Flu?

The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an outbreak of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and other vaping products . We’re closely monitoring the situation and will update our content as soon as more information is available.

There isn’t any evidence that smoking weed while you have a cough, cold, or the flu is inherently unsafe. But does it make sense?

If your throat and lungs are already irritated, smoking may exacerbate your discomfort. Smoking weed has short- and long-term effects on lung and respiratory function.

You may also find that your body responds differently to weed when you’re sick. Both smoking weed and common illnesses such as the flu can cause fatigue, chills, and headaches. You may feel these effects more intensely when you’re sick.

If you already smoke weed on a regular basis, doing so while you’re sick probably won’t have a drastic impact on your symptoms. Still, you should proceed with caution. This probably isn’t the time to experiment with new dosages and strains.

You should also keep in mind that you can spread your illness to others by sharing a joint, bowl, or bong.

Read on to learn more.

At this time, there isn’t any available research on smoking weed while sick with the cold or flu. Research exploring the use of weed for medicinal purposes is still extremely limited.

Although there may be benefits to smoking weed while sick, it’s unclear if they outweigh the potential negative effects.

Anti-inflammatory

According to a comprehensive 2017 review , there’s evidence that weed smoke has anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation plays a role in a number of cold and flu symptoms, including:

  • sore throat
  • swollen nasal passageways
  • fever

Weed’s anti-inflammatory properties might help relieve some of these symptoms, but more research needs to be done to understand the exact benefits.

Pain relief

The same 2017 review concludes that weed is an effective treatment for chronic pain among adults.

Chronic pain is ongoing. It’s different than the acute aches and pains caused by a cold or the flu.

Still, it’s possible that smoking weed could help relieve pain associated with short-term illnesses such as a cold or the flu.

Sleep aid

A 2017 review of research on cannabis and sleep indicates that weed’s active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may help sleep in the short term.

Given this, smoking weed might help you sleep, but when you’re sick with a cold or the flu your sleep cycle might already be altered.

However, long-term weed use is associated with tolerance to the drug’s sleep-inducing effects. In other words, if you’re a regular user, weed might not be as effective in helping you sleep.

Although there’s no serious risk, combining weed with OTC cold and flu medications that have sedative effects, such as NyQuil, can intensify drowsiness and affect cognitive function. You may find it more difficult to concentrate or make decisions.

Can smoking or ingesting marijuana while taking OTC medications for cold and flu result in any adverse effects?

Marijuana should be used with caution while taking OTC medications for cold and flu. Some OTC remedies alter how the body processes the psychoactive components of marijuana, which may lead to an accumulation of excess effects.

Additionally, many OTC options have dry mouth, sedation, confusion, blurry vision, heart rate alterations, and loss of balance as typical side effects in susceptible users; marijuana consumption may lead to worsening of these effects.

To avoid risk of adverse effect, wait to use marijuana (if an occasional or rare user) or do not increase your typical dose consumed (if a routine user) if you require OTC cold or flu medications.

Daniel Murrell, MD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Remember, there hasn’t been any research on weed use while sick with a cough, cold, or flu. In addition, studies on the use of weed for medicinal purposes are limited.

There’s moderate evidence that smoking weed can lead to the following side effects, but this list may not be complete due to the lack of research.

Worsened cough

According to a 2017 review , smoking weed in the long term is associated with a chronic cough and excess phlegm production.

If you’re sick with a cough, cold, or flu, smoking weed could make your respiratory symptoms worse. This is because weed smoke irritates the throat and airways.

Other routes of administration, such as vaping, generally don’t have the same effect on the respiratory system.

Dizziness

Dizziness is a common side effect of both inhaling and ingesting cannabis. Cannabis use can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure that may leave you feeling faint or light-headed.

If you already feel weak or dizzy while sick with a cough, cold, or flu, weed could make it worse.

If you’re a regular user, you may be able to minimize dizziness by decreasing your dosage.

Stomach pain

Inhaling or ingesting cannabis activates cannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestinal system. This can cause a variety of effects, including stomach pain and inflammation.

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a rare condition linked to long-term cannabis use, causes severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Weed use could exacerbate stomach symptoms caused by a cold or the flu, especially if you tend to experience stomach pain when you use weed. You may be able to minimize these effects by decreasing your dosage.

There isn't any evidence that smoking weed while you have a cough, cold, or the flu is inherently unsafe. But if your throat is already irritated, smoking may feel uncomfortable. Your body may also respond differently to weed while you’re sick. Here's what you should know about toking, vaping, edibles, and more.