Healthy Lungs #1: Do Marijuana Users Have A Greater Lung Capacity?

In this first segment on marijuana and healthy lungs, we’ll look into whether smoking cannabis can increase your lung capacity.

Apr 21, 2016
Marijuana And Emphysema

Can marijuana actually support healthy lungs? As with most research surrounding the cannabis plant, lots of studies go back and forth on this topic. In this new Healthy Lungs series, we’ll look into the various ways marijuana may be able to support lung health and the opposing viewpoints. To kick us off, we’ll address a claim oft cited by stoners around the globe: do marijuana users have a greater lung capacity? 

Marijuana and lungs: always controversial

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Marijuana’s impact on healthy lungs has been a subject of debate for quite some time. Over the years, the act of smoking has faced considerable flack for it’s associated health risks. Yet, when we talk about cannabis, the way the herb affects the lungs is a little more complicated than you might expect. Believe it or not, some studies suggest that cannabis may have some positive effects on the respiratory system.

One potential positive effect? An increased lung capacity. Here are the details:

Cannabis and lung capacity

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In 2012, a group of researchers published an extensive study which showed that smoking marijuana is less harmful than smoking tobacco. This is despite the fact that cannabis smoke contains some of the same carcinogens as tobacco.  The study was conducted over the course of 20 years. Data from 5,115 adults was evaluated. The findings might surprise you: moderate marijuana smokers had a lung capacity that is 1.6% greater than their non-smoking counterparts.

Okay, so 1.6% isn’t a whole lot. It correlates to an increase of about 50 millimeters. Lead study author Stefan Kertesz explains:

“The net increase is only 50 milliliters. A soda can is 350 milliliters, so we’re talking about an amount that’s one-seventh the size of a soda can.”

So, you may not want to break out the didgeridoo just yet. But, the results came as a bit of a surprise to those who assumed that smoking marijuana would be associated with the same detrimental effects as tobacco.

The study also found that these positive impacts were dose-related. Adults who smoked an average of one joint a day for seven years where the ones to reap the most benefit. In those that crossed the joint-a-day threshold, the  increases either leveled out or eventually began to decline.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that occasional and low cumulative marijuana use was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.

Does marijuana hurt or help your lungs?

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Although, the study also cited research which has linked marijuana smoke to bronchitis-like symptoms and inflammation. However, it’s unclear whether these issues have long-term implications or cause serious issues. As is common with nearly all marijuana research, just when one study makes one claim, another one comes along and says the opposite. The 2012 study goes on to say:

[…] analyses of pulmonary function and lung disease have failed to detect clear adverse effects of marijuana use on pulmonary function.

So, to conclude, so far we know that occasional to moderate marijuana use is associated with a slightly better than average lung capacity. But, other than that, there’s still quite a bit of head scratching when it comes to determining whether or not smoking a joint every once has any real, lasting negative effects on the lungs. Overall, personal experience might tell you that cannabis provides you more benefit than harm.

If you are concerned about how smoking impacts your lungs, you can always switch up your consumption method to limit any damage. If you consider yourself a heavy smoker, investing in a good vaporizer can limit the amount of smoke you inhale on a regular basis. For more info on safe smoking practices and some tutorials on lung cleansing exercises, be sure to check out our piece on How To Smoke Weed and Keep Your Lungs Healthy. Lots of good info there!

What do you think? Has marijuana impacted your breathing? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below.

Apr 21, 2016