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Asthma

Can the use of cannibus cause of asthma?

02/25/2009

Question:

My partner has been smoking cannibus daily since 16. He is now 36. Could his use of cannibus be part of if not the cause of asthma in our 16month old?

Answer:

The deleterious effects of cannabis smoke on the lungs is due to the multiple components of the smoke, which it shares with tobacco. "The active substance responsible for the psychostimulating effect of cannabis is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, as with tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke consists of a large mixture of compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, cyanide, benzene and many others." (Thorax 2007;62:1036-1037.) These compounds are known to cause, long term, harmful effects on the airways - they become inflamed, and smokers often develop problems with cough, wheeze, and increased sputum production. Studies have shown that long term smokers have lower lung function results on breathing tests, and abnormal changes on chest CT scans (emphysema-like changes.)

There isn't much research on how cannabis smoke affects bystanders (it's illegal - which restricts studies.) We do know tobacco smoke increases the risk of children developing asthma, and those who develop it wheeze more often with ongoing exposure. Since cannabis smoke involves most of the same chemicals, it's logical to conclude that the same effects can occur to children from cannabis smoke exposure.

Infants, particularly, are sensitive to developing wheezing from smoke exposure. (They've even been shown to have more wheezing just from increased air pollution levels!)

Your partner should be no where near your child when he is smoking. Meaning not in the same building. If you can smell the smoke, then the harmful chemicals are in the air, too, and your child may be inhaling them.

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Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University