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J Cannabis Ther 2001(3/4):087-102

Smoking and the Lung

Effects of Smoked Marijuana on the Lung and Its Immune Defenses: Implications for Medicinal Use in HIV-Infected Patients

D.P. Tashkin

Habitual marijuana smoking may cause a number of potentially harmful effects on the lung, including the following: (1) acute and chronic bronchitis; (2) extensive histopathologic alterations in the cells lining the bronchial passages that could impair mucociliary clearance or predispose to malignancy; (3) increased accumulation of inflammatory cells (alveolar macrophages) in the lung; and (4) impairment in the function of these important immune-effector cells, including their ability to kill microorganisms and to produce protective pro-inflammatory cytokines. The major potential pulmonary consequences of habitual marijuana use are pulmonary infection and respiratory cancer. Infectious complications could be due to smoking-related damage to the mucociliary clearance mechanism, marijuana-related impairment in the antimicrobial function of alveolar macrophages and/or fungal or bacterial contamination of marijuana. Patients with pre-existing immune deficits due to AIDS could be particularly susceptible to pulmonary infectious complications of marijuana use.

Pulmonary function, cannabis, medical marijuana, HIV, AIDS

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