A new study from the University of California, San Francisco, found exposure to marijuana smoke is three times more dangerous than exposure to tobacco smoke.
And they certainly know a thing or two about marijuana in San Francisco! In fact, the study’s lead researcher got the idea to observe the health effects of inhaling this supposedly “harmless” burning leaf from a personal experience. A few years back, he was surrounded for hours by a constant haze of marijuana smoke at a Paul McCartney concert.
Ironically, politically correct pundits promote marijuana as “harmless,” despite the science, but they continue to rage against tobacco.
Granted, humans have been inhaling smoke for a million years, at least since the invention of fire. So, we have some built-in defense mechanisms that enable us to tolerate some smoke.
In fact, as I reported last month, most people have enzymes in their lung tissue that help protect against the effects of smoke inhalation.
One enzyme, called alpha-one anti-trypsin (A1AT), plays a big role in your individual susceptibility to smoke. This enzyme normally neutralizes harmful biochemicals caused by any kind of smoke inhaled into the lungs.
But certain genetic variants of the enzyme don’t work well. And people with this “defective” gene variant may be extremely sensitive to even moderate levels of smoke inhalation. In fact, they very often go on to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
And we’ve actually known about this variant for decades.
In fact, I researched the A1AT enzyme as an undergraduate research scholar at the City of Hope National Medical Center with Dr. Jack Lieberman during the summer of 1974.
This early and inexpensive genetic research conducted in the 1970s should have led to a simple and effective screening program for the targeted prevention of COPD. In fact, you can screen for the A1AT gene with a simple blood test.
Instead, all the real science about smoking and lung disease went out the window in 1985. I know this because I witnessed it firsthand at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), when a bunch of self-appointed pseudo-scientists summarily decided the “science was settled.”
They then poured virtually all the NCI money and research efforts into the pseudo-science of behavioral control for smoking prevention and cessation for the entire population. Not just for those with the genetic susceptibility who really need to be protected from smoke.
But no science is ever really “settled,” as this new study shows…
Inhaling marijuana smoke constricts blood vessels
For the new study I mentioned earlier, researchers subjected rats to both cigarette smoke and marijuana smoke. Then, they tested their blood flow. (Public health experts have used this effect to illustrate the dangers of tobacco smoking to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, in addition to the lungs.)
The rats experienced constricted blood flow for about 30 minutes after exposure to tobacco. But — they experienced constricted flow for about 90 minutes after exposure to exposure to marijuana.
When this constriction happens over and over, the arterial walls can become permanently damaged. And that damage can cause blood clots, heart attack, or stroke.
I personally think some of marijuana’s unique dangers relate to this constriction of blood flow.
And remember, this constriction happened when the rats simply inhaled the air filled with smoke.
So, what would happen to you if you intentionally held the smoke in?
As you may recall, smoking marijuana often involves performing the Valsalva maneuver, which means you inhale in and hold deep breaths. This maneuver traps carbon dioxide and combustion products, like carbon monoxide, in the lungs.
A few other effects inhaling this “harmless” herb can have on your body:
- It blocks oxygen from getting into your lungs, which increases internal pressure in the chest and abdomen.
- It also interferes with the blood flow returning back to the heart.
- And ultimately it reduces cardiac output, or the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute.
- A reduction in cardiac output can contribute to circulatory insufficiency — where the circulatory system fails to deliver enough blood to the bodily organs and tissues — which is associated with heart attacks and strokes
Dr. Springer, the lead researcher of the rat study, told NPR, “People think cannabis is fine because it’s ‘natural.’ I hear this a lot. I don’t know what it means. We in the public health community have been telling them for decades to avoid inhaling smoke from tobacco. We have not been telling them to avoid inhaling smoke from marijuana…”
That’s right, Dr. Springer. Why not?
“Are There Risks From Secondhand Marijuana Smoke? Early Science Says Yes,” National Public Radio (www.npr.org) 3/19/2018