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There has been long-standing controversy over whether the effects of smoking cannabis leads to impaired lung functioning – until now. Last week, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced results of a 20 year study that shows that “occasional and low cumulative marijuana use” does not have any adverse consequences on pulmonary function.
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, followed a cohort of more than 5000 people aged 18-30 in the United States from 1985 to 2006, taking repeated measurements of several factors, one of which included lung functioning for those who smoked marijuana.
Conclusions from the study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, reported that low levels of use over time (defined as one joint every day for seven years or one joint weekly for 20 years) did not affect lung functioning, however both cigarette use as well as more heavy use of cannabis resulted in worsened test results.
For years, there has been clinical debate over what effect smoking marijuana has on lung functioning and the development of lung cancer. Previous studies, like this one, have proven that when smoking marijuana in isolation (i.e. without cigarettes) there is no associated decline in pulmonary functioning or increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.
While some previous studies showed smoking marijuana could cause respiratory complications such as cough, sore throat, and increased phlegm, this study did not measure for those outcomes. When cannabis is necessary to treat a condition or help alleviate pain, there are many other alternative methods of ingestion of medical marijuana that eliminate any effect on the lungs or respiratory system, such as edibles, liquid tinctures, vaporization, creams and topicals, etc. All of these methods have proven in clinical trials to not only be safe, but also effective and beneficial.
This is good news for those diagnosed with serious and painful illnesses who have found medical marijuana to be much more effective at alleviating symptoms and providing relief than traditional medicines. Clinical trials and medical studies that confirm the safety and efficacy of cannabis will help support further scientific research as a viable medicine and treatment option and hopefully also influence legislation to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
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