Effects of Smoking Weed on the Lungs

Learn more about smoking weed, its effects on the body, and why reactions differ from person to person.

What is Weed?

Substance abuse is a widespread problem affecting homes and societies around the world. Different substances can be abused, from prescription pills to illegal substances. Smoking weed has become a fairly popular pastime, especially among youth. According to the CDC, weed consumption in high schoolers in the United States is over 22%. 1

Solving weed abuse requires understanding what weed is, why it can be addictive, and the dangers of overconsumption.

Weed, also known as marijuana, pot, grass, and dope, is a mixture of leaves and flowers from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Weed is a viral substance of abuse commonly used recreationally, as it contains psychoactive components that can alter mood and consciousness.

People employ several ways to smoke weed, including rolling it in a cigar or cigarette wrap, rolling it into a blunt, using a pipe, and even using a vaporizer. Other methods of weed consumption involve baking it in goods like brownies or cookies, drinking it in the form of a tea, or mixing it with food.
Smoking Weed

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Cigarettes vs. Weed

Although marijuana is typically smoked in blunt or cigarette wraps, cigarettes and weed are two very different things and should not be confused. The dangers of smoking cigarettes are significant and can lead to severe consequences, while the side effects of marijuana are not as severe but can still have negative outcomes. Nonetheless, it is important to note that weed does have beneficial effects, allowing for medical use.

The effects of weed are often the reason an addiction can develop. But what exactly happens when people smoke weed, and why does this addiction frequently occur?

What Happens When You Smoke Weed?

Marijuana has psychoactive effects attributed to several chemical constituents present in the plant’s leaves and flowers. The principal psychoactive constituent in marijuana is known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 2
When people smoke weed, large amounts of these psychoactive constituents (i.e., THC) rapidly enter the bloodstream and end up in the brain, where it potentiates the release of dopamine—a neurotransmitter that affects relaxation and sedation. This analgesic effect of marijuana is why it is used as a pain reliever.
Smoking too much weed eventually results in the brain getting exposed to large amounts of the psychoactive THC, leading to a “rewiring” of the brain’s circuits and establishing a new “normal.” This means that smoking weed every day may eventually lead to weed dependence, where people who smoke too much weed cannot function normally without it.

Edibles vs. Smoking Weed

The time it takes to feel the effects of weed, whether it is someone’s first time or part of their everyday routine, depends on its form. When smoked, the psychoactive content of weed goes into the bloodstream faster, so in an “edibles vs. smoking weed” comparison, one can expect to experience a faster onset of action when smoking the drug.

Effects of Smoking Weed on the Lungs

Although relatively safer than cigarette smoking, smoking weed can eventually damage the lungs just as cigarettes would. In fact, marijuana smoking has been linked to some unpleasant side effects. Additionally, smoking weed can affect several other protective body functions. Some of these effects of marijuana smoking include:
  • Obstructive airway disease
  • Restrictive airway disease
  • Decrease immunity
  • Malignancy
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Heart failure
These effects are severe because smoking weed damages the cells and cell lining of the lungs.3 There is usually a marked difference in lung health before and after weed smoking. This particular side effect of smoking weed is implicated in obstructive airway disease and restrictive airway disease.
Before eventually resulting in the above-listed severe medical conditions, there are several observable short-term and long-term effects of marijuana smoking.

Short-Term Effects When You Smoke Weed

The short-term effects of weed smoking usually include mental irregularities and impairment of motor functions. As the name implies, one would be able to observe some or all of these effects in the short term. These short-term effects include the following: 4
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of coordination
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Impaired memory
  • Lack of attention and focus

Long-Term Effects When You Smoke Weed

Continual weed smoking can lead to the development of more serious adverse effects that are difficult or even impossible to manage well, especially after long periods of regular use. These long-term effects of smoking weed include:
  • Increased risk of lung, head, and neck cancers
  • Heightened risk of infections, especially in the lungs
  • Inability to shift attention normally
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor short-term memory recall
  • Respiratory problem

Why Reactions to Weed Differ

It is common for weed to exhibit different reactions for each person, depending on a few factors. The following includes the possible causes of varied effects on individuals:

Marijuana Strength (Amount of Active Ingredient THC)

The THC content of marijuana differs from plant to plant, usually due to cultivation conditions, including weather conditions, access to water, geography, etc. So, the varying potency of THC can result in different reactions and effects.

Previous Experience With the Drug

Tolerance to weed is another reason why reactions to the substance differ, so the intensity of effects and reaction observed for someone smoking weed for the first time and someone who smokes weed consistently will vary. Tolerance occurs when the body is repeatedly exposed to weed, which mainly results from people smoking weed while high (binge smoking). To achieve the same initial high, an increase in the amount ingested is needed.

How It's Taken

Another major factor that influences the reactions observed from weed smoking is how it’s taken. For example, smoking weed too fast may result in more intense reactions than being ingested slowly. In addition, the form in which it is taken (e.g., smoked, vaped, eaten) can determine the intensity of the effects.
Note that not all side effects of marijuana are negative. For example, smoking weed before bed (usually one hour before) may help improve sleep. 5
Other factors include:

Get Help With Smoking Weed at Concise Recovery

people smoking weed 

Developing an addiction to marijuana can affect people’s daily life. Unfortunately, ceasing the use of weed can be difficult due to the body’s dependency, leading to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Seeking help from an addiction recovery facility like Concise Recovery Center can provide a safe and effective treatment plan to achieve sobriety.

Concise Recovery is an addiction treatment center that helps individuals recover from various substance abuse illnesses every day. We have experienced specialists who assist patients in overcoming addiction and healing from it physically and psychologically.

The addiction treatment plan Concise Recovery offers includes detoxification that our specialists carefully manage and various types of therapy to help identify and effectively deal with substance abuse triggers. We provide inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, so the luxury of selecting which one best suits one’s needs is available.

Reach out now to begin the journey to a healthy and substance-free lifestyle.