How much does smoking marijuana damage my lungs?
February 17, 2008 5:28 PM   Subscribe

How much damage am I doing to my lungs, specifically with regards to athletic capabilities, by smoking marijuana regularly?

I smoke about 1 gram of marijuana per week, most regularly through a bong, but occasionally with a bowl. I am a pretty avid Crossfitter and ultimate player. How much does smoking affect my abilities in these areas, especially since both are generally anaerobic in nature?

I understand that smoking indisputably damages my lungs. I understand that these effects could largely be mitigated by using a vaporizer or similar device. I want to know given my current pattern of usage, how I can expect my athletic performance to change, if at all.

I've been an occasional marijuana smoker for 5+ years. I have been smoking at my current level for a few months and can still run a 5k as fast, if not faster, than I ever could, which is the main area I would expect to see degredation. I feel like I continue to be getting in better and better shape (which I would describe as pretty good to begin with) despite smoking. Can this continue to hold if I smoke at my current rate?

Studies preferred over anecdotal evidence.
posted by christonabike to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your useage pattern sounds rather light.

Bong > bowl/joint in terms of your lungs.

If you're really worried, switch to using a vapourizer, preferably one with a temperature sensor (or figure out when it's getting too hot and starts vapourizing the heavier and longer chain organics [ie., tars]).
posted by porpoise at 6:04 PM on February 17, 2008

It is light, typically a few nights per week. However, since I don't see it stopping I'd like to know what to expect should I continue. I plan on getting a vaporizer eventually, but I'm primarily smoking in social settings with those who prefer other devices.
posted by christonabike at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2008

A study by New Zealand scientists released a couple weeks ago indicate that, "Smoking a joint is equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk." The ABC News article points out that the increased risk is in part due to the lack of a filter, and because stoners inhale "more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways."

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws takes issue with the study and argues that marijuana use may actually to reduce risk of cancer, but do suggest vaporization to "significantly reduce their intake of respiratory irritants or gaseous combustion toxins."
posted by Unsomnambulist at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2008

A review.
One of the many attempts to quantitate this relationship. They found a 1 joint to 2.5-5 cigarette dose equivalence. There is much disagreement on exactly how bad pot is for the lung.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2008

And for fairness, another attempt which found no association.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:02 PM on February 17, 2008

I guess getting cancer would affect your athletic performance so the link above may be slightly related to your question. But I wouldn't worry too much. This is the research paper Unsomnambulist mentioned above. The study seems like something high school science students might have performed. A statistical analysis of survey results where your population is patients diagnosed with lung cancer? Really? And an ABC news article that offers unproven hypotheses for why there is a higher risk? Just do a search for "marijuana" and "cancer" on Pubmed and you'll find many more studies indicating that this "research" is just plain wrong.

As for your actual question, this review paper argues that studies show short-term use will have little to no effect, but long-term use may lead to coughing and wheezing akin to asthma. So yes, your smoking may catch up with you someday. Smoking weed (or grass clippings, or anything else) is probably 1:1 equivalent to smoking tobacco in terms of lung function.

/researches cannabinoids for a living, but is more concerned with their pharmacology than any larger effects.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 7:26 PM on February 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Back when I was running marathons and doing 40min 10k runs, I would occasionally have a cigar at the campus bar once a week. I noticed my overall speed went down considerably for a couple days after, and it wasn't until months later when I fully quit doing it that I got my minutes/mile time down further to something faster.

Why not try taking a couple weeks off it and seeing how your ultimate/5k performance changes?
posted by mathowie at 8:27 PM on February 17, 2008

If you're crossfitting you should know your times for the various workouts, try stopping or switching to cookies or whatever for a month and compare your results.
posted by markr at 10:17 PM on February 17, 2008

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