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I’ve been a somewhat ‘regular’ user of Marijuana for the past 6 years or so. I will typically smoke once a day in the evening. I have a regular exercise routine and am in what most would consider to be ‘fit’. I ran a half marathon and a 10 mile race last year with no feelings of decreased breath capacity. My question is what sort of effects could/should I expect if I continue to indulge as I have been (regular smoking/once a day)? I’ve read up on many of the effects cigarette smoking causes but most of those studies seem to be about people who smoke multiple cigarettes in one day and have been doing it for years (sometimes decades). What sort of risk am I assuming by taking 2-3 puffs per day?

Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States with estimates that 40-50% of Americans having tried marijuana at least once in their life. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana which reacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain giving the user the typical “high.”

You are correct in that regular smoking of marijuana can be likened to regular smoking of cigarettes. Note, however, one major difference between marijuana and cigarettes is that cigarettes are tightly controlled for quality of ingredients. Marijuana is not regulated, and in addition, the lack of a filter leads to the user inhaling more carcinogenic agents produced by the burning of marijuana leaves. There are many comparisons between marijuana and cigarettes available online if you are so interested.

There are many studies showing that marijuana has carcinogens (up to 70% more than cigarettes) and irritants to the lung. Lung tissue of marijuana users indicate a decrease in regenerative potential. However, at the rate of 3 puffs per day, the chances of actually developing lung, throat, or esophageal cancer from Marijuana with even decades of smoking is slim to none. But that being said, marijuana smoke still irritates the lung and increases the phlegm production as well as increases the user’s risk of developing pneumonias.

One recent study showed that marijuana users experience an increased heart rate as well as and increased chance of developing arrythmias and palpitations. This results in an increased risk of developing a heart attack from using marijuana. This risk is much greater in the elderly population than in the young population and much greater in those with pre-existing heart conditions.

Finally, there are studies that suggest marijuana is associated with mental conditions such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. However, these are just associations and no cause-effect has ever been established.

The bottom line is that marijuana is not a benign drug. Users should be aware of the risks and benefits. We would not advise anyone to partake in any form of recreational marijuana use.