New Study Shows Vaporizing Marijuana Safer and More Effective Than Smoking

A new study reveals that while smoking marijuana is less harmful than tobacco, it is not without risk.  Vaporizing, or “vaping” appears to be a safe and more effective means of delivering cannabinoids for rapid onset.

One argument that anti-marijuana proponents use is that smoking marijuana cannot be “medical”.  This presumption is based on the premise that the harm that comes from smoking is worse than any medical benefit that could be achieved.  Yet existing studies do not support this presumption.

Many people who use marijuana medically suffer from conditions that require quick onset of relief and smoking is their preferred method of delivery.  This study shows that these people could benefit from vaping instead of smoking, not only because it dramatically reduces the amount of lung irritants produced by combustion, it actually delivers more of the beneficial cannabinoids, making vaporization safer and more effective.

Study Summary:

No smoke, no fire: What the initial literature suggests regarding vapourized cannabis and respiratory risk.

As marijuana laws change, questions about the plant’s impact on respiratory function will undoubtedly increase. The human lung did not evolve to inhale the byproducts of combustion efficiently. Smoking marijuana does not harm lung function as dramatically as smoking tobacco does. Links between smoking marijuana and actual lung cancer are weak and difficult to replicate. Nevertheless, the habit clearly increases symptoms of respiratory irritation such as tightness in the chest, wheezing and coughing. It also has the potential to alter lung function when dose and frequency of use are high. Using stronger cannabis extracts has the potential to limit exposure to irritants, but data regarding this phenomenon are lacking. Many medical marijuana users prefer to use the entire plant. It appears to alter subjective state less dramatically as well as show lower potential for creating tolerance. Edible preparations are an obvious choice that would certainly not add byproducts of combustion to the lung, but these lack the rapid onset and easy titration of dosage available with inhaled products. Thus, the cannabis vapourizer appears to be an ideal harm-reduction approach to safer use.

The vapourizer runs heated air across the plant without igniting it, releasing the cannabinoids in a vapour free from the byproducts of combustion. Some types rely on the user’s own inhalation to draw the hot air past the plant material, potentially exposing the lungs to more heat. Other devices blow air into an isolated bag, separating the heating element from the user and avoiding heat exposure. Laboratory work shows that cannabis vapour is composed almost exclusively of cannabinoids with virtually no pyrolitic compounds. The vapourizer raises cannabinoid levels in humans but does not raise exhaled CO levels. One pre-post design clinical trial showed that users with respiratory irritation improved symptoms and lung function after switching to a vapourizer. In short, vapourizers show promise for cannabis users who want to avoid pulmonary problems and prefer a more rapid onset than edibles provide.

Full text here: NIH Website

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