Fraser Horton
Fraser Horton
Last Updated on September 1, 2021

Cannabis is extremely popular among young adults nowadays, but it’s also popular among other cannabis users who use it for either recreational or medical purposes, or both. 

We’re all familiar with the powerful cannabinoids THC and CBD, the chemical compounds of the cannabis plant which give users psychoactive and/or relaxing highs. If you’re interested in learning more about cannabis, its effects, and how it influences us in the long run, this article, as well as the other articles on our blog, will help you with that.

In some of our previous articles, we’ve gone over whether you can get pneumonia from smoking weed, as well as whether smoking weed causes COPD. This one will focus on another subject that is of interest to a lot of marijuana smokers – can you get bronchitis from smoking weed? Read on to find out.

Smoking Marijuana and the Effects of Marijuana Smoke

Even though marijuana use can be a controversial topic in states where weed isn’t legal, the effects of cannabis on the body are widely discussed and researched all around the world – especially the effects of marijuana on lung health and the overall health of the respiratory system. Cannabis smoking may cause further health problems for people who are suffering from chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases. 

In general, marijuana smokers have an increased risk of experiencing respiratory health problems compared to people who don’t smoke cannabis. Smoking weed has also been connected with an impairment in the functioning of the large airways which may result in airflow obstruction and hyperinflation. 

Marijuana Smoke

We all know that all types of smoke are harmful to our lung health since the smoke from the combusted materials contains harmful toxins and carcinogens, and cannabis smoke isn’t any different. This is why in this article, we’ll talk about the effects of cannabis smoking and whether you can get bronchitis if you smoke weed.

Marijuana smoke contains around 30 carcinogens as well as other chemicals which when ingested, can be harmful to the respiratory system. Moreover, marijuana smokers inhale more deeply and hold their breath for longer when smoking weed compared to cigarette smokers, which means that your respiratory system is exposed to more tar.

And cannabis smokers aren’t the only ones at risk. Secondhand cannabis smoke contains most of the toxins and carcinogens as inhaled marijuana smoke, therefore inhaling it can also result in detrimental health effects, especially in young children.

Tobacco Smoking vs Marijuana Smoking

The research on the effects of cannabis on cannabis users is not as extensive as the one about the effects of tobacco smoke on tobacco smokers. During the 1950s, it became evident that smoking causes cancer and has other consequences on the respiratory system, and the research has become more thorough since then.

Chronic tobacco use may lead to:

  • Coughing;
  • Sputum production and chronic bronchitis;
  • Wheezing;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Airflow obstruction and a decrease of the FEV1/FVC ratio (the ratio that measures the breathing capacity of people);
  • Chronic narrowing and damage to the alveoli (emphysema);
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect lung health. (Onor et al, 2017)

Marijuana Smoke, Lung Health

Long-term cannabis smoking can also have serious effects on the lungs and the respiratory system. The same as smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana results in users inhaling chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and others which may irritate the bronchial passages. A 2020 study concluded that cannabis smoke has about 110 compounds which may have toxic properties. Consequently, smoking marijuana may cause:

  • Chronic cough;
  • Phlegm production;
  • Wheeze in users;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Air pockets in between the lungs;
  • Increased risk of developing lung infections and acute bronchitis.

Moreover, some studies even researched the connection between cannabis use and the increased risk of lung cancer. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), on the other hand, claims that there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that inhaled cannabis smoke can affect the chances of users getting lung cancer. Cannabis use and cigarette smoking often go hand in hand, so until more studies are done on the subject, we can’t claim that cannabis use increases lung cancer risks. (Aldington et al, 2007; Ribeiro et al, 2016; Pletcher et al, 2012; Tashkin, 2013)

Cannabis Smoking and the Immune System

Smoking marijuana can also harm other systems in the body, like the immune system. Since the immune system’s function is fighting off diseases, and cannabis use affects the immune system, people with a weakened immune system will find it even more difficult to fight off diseases if they consume weed. People with a weakened immune system are also under more threat of getting Aspergillus, a mold that causes lung disorders and can grow on the marijuana plant.

Marijuana Use and Chronic Bronchitis 

As we’ve previously stated, long-term inhalation of marijuana smoke may cause bronchitis and even worsen the symptoms of chronic bronchitis and other conditions related to the respiratory system. However, some studies show that medical marijuana and especially the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be beneficial for people with chronic lung disease. THC can act as a bronchodilator and increase the amount of airflow in the lungs, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved THC as a drug for the treatment of certain conditions.

Final Thoughts on Whether You Can Get Bronchitis From Smoking Weed

The health effects of marijuana on users can either be positive or negative. Cannabis users consume this powerful plant either as a medicine or as a way to relax and unwind. Therefore, what’s most important is how users consume weed, and how much they consume, if we’re to say whether weed consumption can lead you to a bronchitis diagnosis.

Long-term cannabis use can have negative effects on the respiratory system and even cause conditions like bronchitis. The increase in marijuana use these past years as well as the increase in the number of people who are vaping have proved that extreme weed consumption can lead to lung health consequences. 

In order to prevent this, use cannabis responsibly and consult with a licensed physician if you’re experiencing respiratory health effects as a result of cannabis use.

Additional Sources

Onor, I. O., Stirling, D. L., Williams, S. R., Bediako, D., Borghol, A., Harris, M. B., Darensburg, T. B., Clay, S. D., Okpechi, S. C., & Sarpong, D. F. (2017). Clinical Effects of Cigarette Smoking: Epidemiologic Impact and Review of Pharmacotherapy Options. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(10), 1147. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101147

Aldington, S., Williams, M., Nowitz, M., Weatherall, M., Pritchard, A., McNaughton, A., Robinson, G., & Beasley, R. (2007). Effects of cannabis on pulmonary structure, function and symptoms. Thorax, 62(12), 1058–1063. https://doi.org/10.1136/thx.2006.077081

Ribeiro, L. I., & Ind, P. W. (2016). Effect of cannabis smoking on lung function and respiratory symptoms: a structured literature review. NPJ primary care respiratory medicine, 26, 16071. https://doi.org/10.1038/npjpcrm.2016.71 

Pletcher, M. J., Vittinghoff, E., Kalhan, R., Richman, J., Safford, M., Sidney, S., Lin, F., & Kertesz, S. (2012). Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years. JAMA, 307(2), 173–181. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.1961 

Tashkin DP. (2013). Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 10(3), 239–247. https://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201212-127FR 

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The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.