This is the second article I’m going to write where I highlight some of the more undesirable effects of smoking cannabis. Before the lynch mob comes for me, I’m writing this while smoking a joint with literal tar dripping from the edge.
Nonetheless, I believe that willful ignorance is idiotic and one must be ruthlessly honest about one’s own behavior. The fact of the matter is that smoking any substance has a negative impact on the human physiology.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been seeing more headlines about a small study that looked at cannabis smokers, tobacco smokers, and non-smokers’ CT scans to see if they could visibly see effects their substance us one the lungs.
You can spot a smoker by merely looking at CT scans, and so the researchers wanted to see what the effects of cannabis were.
Study co-author Dr. Giselle Revah, a cardiothoracic radiologist and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, said it’s possible to see that someone is a heavy or longtime cigarette smoker just by looking at their CT scan. She wondered if marijuana, the second most commonly smoked substance after tobacco, would show similar results. She was surprised to find little information existed.
For this study, the researchers compared chest CT results from 56 marijuana smokers, including some who also used tobacco, with 33 who smoked only tobacco and 57 nonsmokers. Roughly 75% of the weed smokers had emphysema compared to 67% of the tobacco-only smokers and 5% of nonsmokers.
Additionally, there were some men who had enlarged breast tissue within the cannabis group. Of course we don’t know how many “some men” are within the small sample group.
While the sample size of the study was very small, I can very much imagine that chronically smoking weed will have some detrimental effect on the lungs. While lung cancer isn’t very prevalent in cannabis smokers, it makes sense that there would be damage to the air sacs in the lungs.
The Working Theory
According to the researchers, the nature of how people smoke cannabis could play an important role in the type of damage they are seeing.
First, cannabis smokers tend to smoke without a filter. The filter serves to cool down the smoke and filter out some undesirable plant matter, etc. Most people do make “cardboard filters” by rolling a piece of cardboard and putting it in the end of the joint or blunt.
However, this doesn’t provide the same level of filtration as a tobacco filter which has cotton doused in chemicals. While the other stuff in the filter is probably murderous, the filtration of the smoke from the burning plant matter is superior to rolled up cardboard.
RELATED: Is Smoking Weed Bad For Your Lungs?
Then there’s the factor of cannabis users “holding” the smoke in their lungs. This is a cannabis myth where they want to “absorb as much THC per hit” as possible. However, the truth of the matter is that you absorb up to 97% of THC from the smoke in the first 2-3 seconds. Therefore, you just need to inhale, hold it for a second or two, and then release.
Holding the smoke will not “get you higher”. What is getting you higher is oxygen deprivation. When you enter into a hypoxic state, you can feel light headed which in combination with the THC makes you “feel way higher”.
At the end of this article I’ll provide you with some exercises to “get higher” without needing to hold any smoke.
Nonetheless, researchers believe this is why there was greater evidence of emphysema in the CT scans of cannabis smokers than tobacco smokers. They also said the golden words: more research is needed. And with good reason. The sample for this study does not indicate anything. It simply shows some correlation between CT scans and cannabis users, but with a sample size that small, you can’t definitively say that this is true across the board.
Irrespective of whether it’s true or not, the information provided by the research does give you the opportunity to mitigate the damage from cannabis smoke. An informed cannabis smoker can reduce risk armed with actionable information.
So for the rest of this article we’re going to be talking about ways that you can keep your lungs healthy as a cannabis smoker.
Don’t Inhale So Deeply
When you’re smoking weed to get high, you don’t have to inhale a full lung of smoke. You simply need to know how to inhale diaphragmatically. However, even if you don’t know how to inhale diaphragmatically, you simply need to take a hit up till where it’s comfortable.
Trying to force as much smoke into your lungs as possible won’t “make you higher”. In fact, if you want to achieve the “highness” from oxygen overstimulation or deprivation, then stick to the end of this article. I’ll show you exactly how you can “trip balls” on O2.
Nonetheless, just take normal tokes. No need to over do it. You can always take another hit if you need more. However, trying to force an ungodly amount of smoke in your lungs could have a more detrimental effect on your overall health over time.
Don’t Hold It Like a Dumbass!
While I have spoken about this above, I think it’s important to reiterate that holding it in doesn’t necessarily make you higher. Rather, you’re playing around with the dynamics of the breath and you don’t need to hold in smoke to achieve similar results.
It’s best to smoke up, rest, and then dive into breathwork or something similar if you truly want to “trip balls”. If that’s what you’re after.
Holding it in doesn’t provide any inherent benefit, therefore, simply cutting out this practice can reduce the stress you place on the lungs.
Don’t Smoke Too Much!
If you’re smoking from the moment you open your eyes to the moment you’re closing them, you might have a dependency on cannabis. Nonetheless, even if you’re chronically impaired, then why not switch things up. You can have edibles, you can vape, you can even have tinctures.
All of these non-smoking alternatives can reduce the impact of the “smoke” on the lungs. Maybe instead of your regular wake and bake, you can take a few drops of tincture and drop it into your coffee. That way you get the morning buzz without burning any plant matter.
Bongs or Bubblers
While a bong can certainly give you more volume of smoke per hit, it’s also cleaner because the smoke gets filtered through the water. Therefore, if you’re going to smoke, using a bong is actually not a bad idea. All you got to remember is to take moderate tokes.
While there isn’t too much “science” on the quality of bong smoke (I wonder why), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that when you add a filter to the smoke you’ll get fewer harmful particles. Does this make it safe?
Of course not! But certainly less harmful than smoking a blunt!
Vaping eliminates the combustion process from “smoking marijuana”. However, I would argue that vaping “dry bud” should be the gold standard of vaping. When it comes to pre-mixed cannabis, you don’t know what else they put in there. However, when we’re using straight up cannabis in a dry herb vaporizer, you’re heating up the process enough to turn the cannabinoids into vapor but not enough to start combustion thereby eliminating smoke altogether.
Whether vaporizing might have some other risks involved — only time will tell. However, when compared directly to smoking, it’s certainly a lot less riskier.
An added benefit of vaporizing is that your weed lasts longer. You get more “toke per bowl” with a vaporizer than with a traditional pipe. Therefore, even though the price tag of a Pax pocket vaporizer might be hefty, after a month or two of use, you would have saved that much money in weed.
Keep Your Lungs Active
One thing that I’m very surprised about is that there isn’t more education on breath control. The fact of the matter is that the cardiovascular system is responsible the majority of the energy you wield. Think about it.
How long can you go without food? In some cases, a human being can go months without food. How about water? Water is a more essential element for the human condition seeing that 60% of our mass is water. Therefore, you can go for roughly one week without water before you suffer organ failure. I’m sure there are some people who can go even longer, but the average Joe and Jane would only be able to do a few days at most.
Now how about air? Air is so vital to your life that the vast majority of people can only go a few minutes without air before they cease to exist.
Yet, despite this being such an important function for living, we hardly have any education on how to properly breathe, how to regulate our nervous system using the breath etc.
One would think that with such a vital resource for sentient life, we would have countless studies on the subject matter. However, that isn’t really the case. Modern science is only now getting into the “science of breathing” and we have been “re-discovering” some ancient truths.
The fact of the matter is that the breath has been studied extensively by ancient cultures. The Vedic Sciences have entire volumes dedicated to “breath control” or “Pranayama”.
Pranayama, for those who don’t know, is basically yoga for the lungs.
A Few Exercises You Should Try
Deep slow breathing is definitely something that everyone should try daily. Not only is this proven to relax and calm down your nervous system, it also can help provide mental clarity and help declutter the mind, lower your blood pressure, and increase your dopamine levels.
To do this, you simply have to inhale slowly through the nose shooting the air into the diaphragm. Once you have filled the diaphragm to the brim, then open up the mid section of your lungs, and finally the top. Try to inhale in a single smooth movement.
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On the exhale, with pursed lips, simply let go for about eight seconds of exhalation. This full expansion allows your lung to extend completely, and helps exercise the lung. In the book “The Yogi Science of the Breath” they call this type of inhalation the “Yogic Complete Breath”.
You can practice this a few times per day and you will notice a significant improvement in your overall vitality. It’s also a good way to take a moment to re-center yourself, if shit is going a bit haywire.
Do Some Breathwork
While the yogic complete breath is definitely going to be something that will give you a boost in life, doing regular breathwork is probably one of your best bets to strengthening the lungs. There are plenty of styles of breathing out there, so depending on the type of person you are, you’ll find something that fits.
A good way to get your feet wet is to buy a breathwork bundle pack, which contain several different modes of breathwork. That way you can experiment with different techniques and see which ones you like.
Of course, there’s also plenty of free material on Youtube where you can experiment with the breath. Not only will you see a major improvement in your breathing capacity, you’ll also feel an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility as the breath is directly tied to the autonomic nervous system.
In other words, when you realize that by changing your breathing patterns you can actually flip a switch in your nervous system — it’s a game changer!
Sticky Bottom Line
In the end, these suggestions are simply meant to make you aware of the fact that whenever you smoke anything, you’re still doing some damage to the organism. Being conscious about what it is you’re doing can go a long way in mitigating lasting damage.
At the very least I hope you realize that you don’t need to hold big monster hits to “get higher”.
In fact, if you want to get “high” on the breath, just go ahead, smoke a bowl of your favorite weed, wait like 10-15 minutes, and stretch. Then, lie down flat on the back, put on some headphones, and do this breathwork video.
This article originally appeared on Cannabis.net and has been reposted with permission.