Cannabis can cause 'vanishing lung syndrome', say doctors

Paul Kelbie Scotland Correspondent
Thursday 27 February 2003 01:00
Comments

Regular cannabis smoking was blamed yesterday by doctors for causing a rise in a debilitating disease known as "vanishing lung syndrome".

Doctors treating respiratory illnesses in people aged 25 to 40 are increasingly finding the condition, associated with tobacco smoking, in patients who have seldom, if ever, smoked normal cigarettes.

Cannabis smokers are particularly at risk because they hold smoke in their lungs for longer than other smokers and marijuana spliffs are rolled without filters. Last month, a doctor in Newcastle had to do a lung transplant on a patient who had only ever smoked cannabis.

At the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Dr Mark Johnson, a specialist registrar in respiratory medicine, said he had found a regular stream of patients showing signs of the syndrome, a form of emphysema that reduces the surface of the lungs and replaces it with huge cysts known as giant bullae.

The result was that the alveoli, the air sacs in the lung that permit the transfer of oxygen into the blood, are restricted by the cysts and in effect collapse the lung.

"Much more work needs to be done in this field," said Dr Johnson yesterday. "Every couple of months I finding a new patient showing signs of this condition but nobody knows for sure just how many people are affected." Research by Dr Johnson and his colleagues found patients who smoked two to three spliffs a day suffered similar lung damage to smokers who inhaled more than 20 cigarettes a day. The study found cannabis smokers inhaled more deeply and held the smoke in their lungs up to four times longer than tobacco users.

"When this smoking practice is combined with the lack of filter tips on marijuana cigarettes, it leads to a fourfold greater delivery of tar and a five times greater increase in carboxyhemoglobin per cigarette smoked," they concluded.

"It is a condition that has also been reported in heroin smokers," Dr Johnson said. He found sufferers are predominately male, between 25 and 40, and chronic cannabis smokers.

Other ill-effects associated with marijuana use included cancer, schizophrenia and impotence.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in