Australian Study Looks At Link Between Moderate Cannabis Use And Lung Function

According to a recent study, Australian researchers have said they found no glaring link between moderate cannabis use and lung function. 

The study, as published by the Respiratory Medicine medical journal, examined whether tobacco use, marijuana use, or combined use were associated with significant changes to lung function in a sample of young adults.

Although experts found evidence suggesting lung impairments associated with tobacco consumption, it noted minimal harm linked with low to moderate use of cannabis.

Debunking The Myths About Cannabis Use

The study is significant because it debunks the theory that lung damage from cannabis use is equivalent to lung damage from long-term tobacco smoking. The study also found that the co-use of tobacco together with marijuana posed no additional risk for lung function, as opposed to studies conducted on the tobacco-use only sample group.

The data was obtained from a study of cigarette smoking, cannabis use, and co-use among individuals aged 21 and 30 and their resulting lung function. Interestingly, the subjects for this study were thousands of now-adult children from a cohort of pregnant Australian women who were recruited for the study between 1981 and 1983.

And while cigarette smoking is undoubtedly linked to compromised lung function due to reduced air flow, researchers could find no consistent association between marijuana use and measures of lung function, even after years of continued cannabis use. 

Debunking The Myths About Cannabis Use

The Sample Group Unpacked

Researchers specifically sought to pioneer the study to examine the increased risk related to the co-use of cannabis and tobacco–especially since a study of this nature was yet to be undertaken.

Despite not finding any inflated risk posed to lung airflow as a result of marijuana and tobacco co-use or sole cannabis use, researchers noted other health concerns related to marijuana use.

Lung function within the sample group was assessed by a trained interviewer at two different stages–  at age 21 and at age 30. Interviewers were expertly trained by a clinician who worked as an investigator in the study, using a spirometer to accurately measure lung airflow in the individuals in question.

During the data collection for the 21 and 30 year olds, respondents were questioned about how many cigarettes they had smoked in the past week, together with how often they had used marijuana in the last month. At 30 years, the sample group was asked about their cannabis use in the last 12 months, and how much marijuana they had generally smoked on the days they used it.

Co-Use Under The Microscope

Further findings in the study suggested that cigarette smoking at age 21 or 30 was associated with reduced airflow in the lungs. On the contrary, researchers found that similar use of cannabis at said ages was not substantially linked with reduced lung function and that those who co-used substances had similar reduced lung function as tobacco-only smokers. Individuals who only smoked cannabis and not tobacco had similar lung function relative to those who didn’t use cannabis or tobacco.

Of the tobacco users who were still smoking marijuana at age 30, the negative impacts on lung function were higher compared to those who continued only using cannabis.

Researchers also found that those who used cannabis and tobacco, used cannabis with less frequency and volume than they did tobacco products. Notably, those who were smoking tobacco by age 21 but sought to quit by age 30 exhibited better lung function than those who continued.

Further findings in the study suggested that cigarette smoking at age 21 or 30 was associated

Limitations In The Study

Looking at possible limitations, scientists conducting the study noted that the bronchodilator effects of cannabis on the lungs could likely have contributed to the high levels of respiration recorded via spirometry, with the study only covering two very specific age demographics over a limited nine-year period. The study itself also didn’t shy away from representing former studies on the topic, referencing former studies that suggested heavy lifetime use of marijuana did in fact impact lung function.

The study does well to conflate the effects of both cannabis and tobacco into something more digestible. Marijuana use undoubtedly suffers severe public scrutiny more than its tobacco counterpart. From studies like these, the public gains useful information to help for the reform of long-held misconceptions relating to cannabis use. Studies of this nature undoubtedly do well to continue to destigmatize cannabis use. In our opinion, a win is a win.

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