As marijuana smoking prevalence increases in the United States, concern regarding its potential risks to lung health has also risen, given the general similarity in the smoke contents between marijuana and tobacco. Most studies have found a significant association between marijuana smoking and chronic bronchitis symptoms after adjustment for tobacco. Although reports are mixed regarding associations between marijuana smoking and lung function, none have shown a relationship to decrements in FEV1 and few have found a relationship to a decreased ratio of FEV1/FVC, possibly related to an association between marijuana and an increased FVC. A few studies have found a modest reduction in specific airway conductance in relation to marijuana, probably reflecting endoscopic evidence of bronchial mucosal edema among habitual marijuana smokers. Diffusing capacity in marijuana smokers has been normal, and two studies of thoracic high-resolution CT scan have not shown any association of marijuana smoking with emphysema. Although bronchial biopsies from habitual marijuana smokers have shown precancerous histopathologic changes, a large cohort study and a pooled analysis of six well-designed case-control studies have not found evidence of a link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. The immunosuppressive effects of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol raise the possibility of an increased risk of pneumonia, but further studies are needed to evaluate this potential risk. Several cases series have demonstrated pneumothoraces/pneumomediastinum and bullous lung disease in marijuana smokers, but these associations require epidemiologic studies for firmer evidence of possible causality.
Keywords: chronic bronchitis; lung cancer; lung function; marijuana; smoking; tobacco.
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