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Marijuana Smoke Toxins

by Landmark Recovery

March 2, 2021
marijuana smoke toxins

Marijuana Smoke Toxins


Even the most avid weed smoker will probably admit that yes, smoking marijuana does have a negative impact on your lungs. Marijuana smoke toxins can make you phlegmy, wheezy, short of breath, and may even make you more susceptible to developing chronic bronchitis. But in the same breath, many cannabis smokers defend their habit by saying, “at least I don’t smoke cigarettes.”

Is All Smoke Created Equal?


Smoking tobacco has long been affiliated with adverse health risks, and rightly so. It increases your risk of everything from lung disease to heart disease to cancer. According to the CDC, the problem is so pervasive that cigarette smoking causes approximately one in five deaths in America annually.

So we all know smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. In addition to tobacco, cigarettes also contain many additives to make the smoking experience easier, more pleasant, and flavorful. When smoked, this combination of tobacco and additives burns and creates a toxic cloud of chemicals known as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). These carcinogens are then ingested and affect every part of the body, leading to all the ill effects cigarettes are known to cause.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is a natural drug, grown from the earth. There aren’t any added chemicals. It can’t possibly be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes… right? Perhaps not. New research has revealed that marijuana may not be as innocent as we thought.

As recently as 2019, various scientific findings stated that there’s no known link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. Now, however, there is significant evidence to the contrary. According to a new study published in EClinicalMedicine this January, smoking marijuana may expose you to the same kinds of poisonous chemicals like those found in tobacco smoke.

Marijuana Smoke Toxins


The researchers studied the presence of four different chemicals in the blood and urine of their subjects: naphthalene, acrylamide, acrylonitrile, and acrolein. When comparing the results of those who smoked only tobacco, only marijuana, and a combination of both, researchers came to several conclusions.

  • Tobacco-only and tobacco-marijuana smokers had the highest levels of all four chemicals
  • Marijuana-only smokers had high levels of naphthalene, acrylamide, and acrylonitrile, but not acrolein.

Naphthalene is associated with anemia, liver damage, and neurological damage, while acrylamide and acrylonitrile are linked to cancer and other health issues. Acrolein, meanwhile, is identified as a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease. Both acrylamide and acrylonitrile are “probable human carcinogens,” meaning they are toxic to the body in large amounts.

Naphthalene, acrylamide, and acrylonitrile, the marijuana smoke toxins, are naturally occurring compounds found in various everyday products. Naphthalene is used in pesticides, acrylamide in paper, dyes, and plastics, and acrylonitrile can be used to make plastics and synthetic rubber.

What Comes Next

While it’s a bit of a myth that marijuana is pure and uncontaminated by other compounds, the chemicals mentioned above are not additives but toxic combustion products. This means that no matter how ‘natural’ your weed might be, it still produces toxins when burned.

Weed might now be legal in many states and considered a ‘safer’ alternative to other drugs. But be aware that smoking weed may not be without consequence. Your safety is in your hands.

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, Landmark Recovery can help. Reach out today to learn more, or to find a location near you.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.