Effects of Smoking Marijuana on the Respiratory System: A Systematic Review

Subst Abus. 2023 Jul;44(3):249-260. doi: 10.1177/08897077231186228. Epub 2023 Sep 20.


Background: The prevalence of marijuana use and its derivatives has surged over the past century, largely due to increasing legalization globally. Despite arguments advocating its benefits, marijuana smoking exposes the lungs to harmful combustion byproducts, leading to various respiratory issues such as asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Methods: We embarked on an extensive literature search, utilizing PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar databases, identifying 200 studies. After the elimination of duplicates, and meticulous review of abstracts and full texts, 55 studies were included in our analysis.

Results: Current literature demonstrates that marijuana use negatively impacts lung function, triggering symptoms like chronic cough, sputum production, and wheezing, and diminishing FEV1/FVC ratio in spirometry tests. Moreover, prolonged or chronic marijuana use augments the risk of respiratory function impairment. While the carcinogenic effects of marijuana are still contested, a weak correlation between marijuana use and lung cancer has been observed in some studies. Additionally, instances of other pathologies linked to marijuana use have been reported, including the development of COPD, pulmonary bullae, spontaneous pneumothorax, pleuritic pain, chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, hemoptysis, and pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

Conclusions: The evidence underscores that marijuana use is detrimental to respiratory health. In light of the escalating trend of marijuana use, particularly among the youth, it is imperative to advocate public health messages discouraging its consumption.

Keywords: acute effects; cannabis; consumption; long-term effects; marijuana; respiratory system.

Publication types

  • Review