can smoking weed cause sinus infections

Will daily pot usage hurt my health?

Asked by Pat, Kansas

I don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, but I have smoked marijuana daily for the last 25 years. Although I have enjoyed good health all my life, I would like to know what concerns I should have with long-term marijuana usage.

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children’s Medical Group

Expert Answer

Thank you for this important question. Roughly 40 percent of Americans have tried marijuana, and about 10 percent continue to use it on a regular basis, so this issue is probably more common than one might expect.

The active chemical in marijuana, THC, works on receptors in the brain. In the short term, or within hours of smoking the drug, lower doses can cause feelings of relaxation or distort your senses, whereas higher doses may create hallucinations, learning and memory problems and impaired coordination — which is why it’s not a good idea to drive or play sports when under the influence.

Over the long term, the tar in marijuana may put a person at risk for lung cancer, much as cigarette smoke does. Smoking marijuana can also cause asthma, bronchitis, sinus infections and a sore throat, especially in heavy users. Marijuana may also impair the immune system’s ability to fight off certain infections. There is also some evidence that marijuana can trigger heart attacks in people who already have or are at risk for coronary heart disease.

Because marijuana acts on the brain, chronic use can also make it difficult to concentrate, pay attention and learn. Some studies have shown that regular marijuana smokers may function at a lower intellectual level all the time since the drug can keep affecting the brain for weeks after using.

People who try to stop using marijuana after years of use may have withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, drug craving and insomnia, making it hard to quit. Because of the possible difficulty quitting the drug and the many health concerns associated with long-term smoking, I advise regular users to consult with their doctor or an addiction medicine specialist to help them stop.

I don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, but I have smoked marijuana daily for the last 25 years. Although I have enjoyed good health all my life, I would like to know what concerns I should have with long-term marijuana usage.

The Facts About Marijuana and Health

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The Facts About Marijuana and Health

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 95 million Americans age 12 and older have tried marijuana at least once. Not surprisingly, experimental science involving cannabis has been largely restricted due to its illegality. Thus, while some health consequences of cannabis are known, the long term marijuana effects on health remain unclear.

“Marijuana is taken by … musicians. And I’m not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type…”
Harry J. Anslinger (Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1962)

So… What are the FACTS of Marijuana Effects on Health?

  1. Marijuana smoke contains a 50-70 percent higher concentration of carcinogens than tobacco smoke contains (carcinogens are substances that cause cancer).
  2. Marijuana smokers inhale deeper and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do. This further increases the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke
  3. Regular marijuana smokers show deregulated growth of epithelial cells in their lung tissue- such pathological changes precede the development of lung cancer in tobacco smokers.
  4. Regular cannabis smokers have a higher prevalence of chronic bronchitis symptoms (wheezing, sputum production, chronic cough) and a higher incidence of acute bronchitis than non-smokers.
  5. Regular cannabis consumption is associated with airway injury, lung inflammation and impaired pulmonary defense against infection.

Despite these facts, epidemiological studies have been repeatedly and perhaps unexpectedly unsuccessful in linking marijuana use to respiratory cancers.
In 2006, the largest case-control study of its kind, funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse at UCLA, found no association between marijuana smoking and cancer. Researcher Donald Tashkin, MD, of the study explained “We know that there are as many or more carcinogens and co-carcinogens in marijuana smoke as in cigarettes, but we did not find any evidence for an increase in cancer risk for even heavy marijuana smoking.” While two-pack-a-day or more cigarette smokers were found to have a 20-fold increase in lung cancer, no elevation in risk was seen for even the heaviest marijuana smokers (the heaviest marijuana users in the study had smoked more than 22,0000 joints).

So… Why doesn’t smoking marijuana cause cancer if smoking cigarettes does?
The answer is not clear, but Dr. Tashkin and his team of researchers say it might have something to do with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is a chemical found in marijuana smoke. Cellular studies and even some studies in animal models suggest that THC has antitumor properties, either by encouraging the death of genetically damaged cells that can become cancerous or by restricting the development of the blood supply that feeds tumors. While the nicotine in tobacco has been show to inhibit the destruction of cancer-causing cells, THC appears to do the opposite seemingly lessening the tumor-promoting properties of marijuana smoke.

Marijuana is Not a Demon Weed or a Benign Substance…
In other words, just because cannabis has not been confirmed as a cause of respiratory cancers this does not make it healthy. While not cancer-causing, prolonged exposure to marijuana smoke will leave your lungs open to injury and infection. Recently, studies have shown that vaporizing cannabis exposes the user to lower levels of harmful substances than smoking cannabis. Vaporizers are a safer cannabinoid delivery system; however, they still do not eliminate respiratory irritation completely.

Research on cannabis has been restricted due to its illegality. Some consequences are known, but the long term marijuana effects on health remain unclear.