Marijuana and COPD

chest xray
Nerthuz/Shutterstock

The infamous drug battle between tobacco and marijuana has finally been judged. The Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS), an ongoing multicenter prospective observational study, feels it’s reached a conclusion in comparing both plants’ impact on chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and lung function airflow. It seems like research is once again on the side of marijuana. However, let’s not assume everything is perfect. 

This isn't the first study done in the attempt to determine marijuana use‘s association with respiratory function and possible lung diseases. Prior studies have been fraught with issues, including studying fewer than 50 people and not providing emphysema tests by CT scan. They also reached conflicting answers as to whether or not marijuana has anything to do with certain types of COPD. However, studies did agree that there is a mild decrease in lung function, possibly stemming from deep extended inhales.  

Keep in mind, marijuana studies have been limited for a long time due do the legal restriction on the plant itself. 

It’s known that tobacco and marijuana are two different entities, but they do have a few similarities besides being plants. The chemical makeup found in marijuana includes toxins found in smoked tobacco. Conducting studies with a population that uses both makes it a more challenging process. 

So is there a link between marijuana and COPD? Let’s find out.

THE STUDY 

The population method was used to conduct this study. Its duration was from November 2011 to January 2015. Approximately 3,000 people between the ages of 40 and 80 were categorized under 'non-tobacco, tobacco, non-marijuana, and current and former marijuana users.'  

The tobacco population was assessed for tobacco history and lung function, surveyed for marijuana use, and ensured to have normal spirometry function. This is compared with a non-random group not exposed to marijuana. 

The marijuana group was assessed for normal lung function at enrollment. Marijuana use for current and former users had been compared to historical non-users. For the former and current groups' information, a yearly estimate of bowl and joint use had been provided. 

THE RESULTS 

In the end, the results were consistent with various theories. When compared to non-smokers, both tobacco and marijuana do have a negative association with lung function.  

But wait… there's more. 

Moderate Smoker 

The good news is that although the study shows that marijuana has a negative association with lung function, it does not lead to symptoms of COPD. Current smokers with moderate marijuana usage were not associated with increased risk for coughing, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis.  

We finally did it, guys! We proved that tobacco is pretty terrible when compared to non-smokers and marijuana users.  

But wait… there's more. 

HighVolume Smoker 

With higher usage, a stronger connection was seen between smoking and lung function. Reports of wheezing, coughing, and mild chronic bronchitis association were considered to be due to increased tissue volume. As common sense has always told us, too much of anything is a bad thing. 

But not as bad as tobacco. 

Your Mind is About to Be Blown. 

lung health cannabis
stam_photo/Shutterstock
This study also showed that current smokers are more likely to be young, white males who smoke both marijuana and tobacco. It was concluded that the combination can cause a less severe case of COPD. A theory is that current marijuana smokers smoke less tobacco. 

These results are telling. We know that smoking tobacco could lead to COPD. People have always assumed that marijuana does the same thing. But this study clears up some assumptions when it comes to the two entities. The fact that those who smoke both marijuana and tobacco still have a lesser chance of getting severe COPD shows that not only is there not a connection, but that those who choose to balance moderate smoking with marijuana still do not have a higher chance of severe COPD.  

In theory, you would be better off switching one of your packs a week for some marijuana to reduce COPD severity. 

It also should remind people that just because something is helpful doesn't mean it should be overused. I am sooo sick of broccoli. 

A side note: Since current smokers are most likely young white males, why do we see such a high rate of black men doing long-term sentences for marijuana? Time for another study.