Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?
Is smoking weed bad for you?
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- Inherent risks
- Potential side-effects
- Is there anyone who should avoid smoking weed?
- Bottom line
Thanks to a decades-long smear campaign (“Reefer Madness,” anyone?), a large portion of the US population operated under the assumption that weed was always bad.
That all began to change once legalization, both medical and recreational, started spreading across the country. Today, cannabis has become much more normalized and many people not only disagree with the idea that cannabis is bad for you, they actually incorporate weed into their wellness routines.
But what about smoking weed? Are there any risks? Does smoking carry more side effects than other consumption methods?
While we wish the answer was as clear cut as “yes, smoking weed is bad for you” or “no, smoking weed isn’t bad for you,” the truth is a bit more complicated.
First, let’s look at smoking as a consumption method. Whenever you combust plant material, toxins called polyaromatic hydrocarbons form. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons exist in both tobacco and cannabis smoke and exposing yourself to those toxins is one of the risks of smoking weed.
Research shows that smoking cannabis doesn’t have the same risks as smoking cigarettes. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
But research shows that smoking cannabis just doesn’t have the same risks as smoking cigarettes. While smoking weed to excess may lead to respiratory issues (like bronchitis or, in severe cases, COPD), there has been no causal link found between smoking weed and cancer , one of the biggest risks associated with smoking cigarettes. In fact, research shows that some of the compounds in cannabis show potential for slowing the growth of cancerous tumors .
Smoking anything, including cannabis, has potential risks. But research shows that cannabis smoke has far fewer risks than cigarette smoke, and, to date, there’s been no link found between cannabis and cancer.
People use cannabis in different ways, for different reasons, and have different experiences. Many people smoke weed and encounter no negative side effects whatsoever. Some find tremendous relief from conditions like PTSD or chronic pain. These people would probably say smoking weed is not bad for them.
But others smoke weed and have a different experience. Weed can make some people feel anxious, tired, or unmotivated. In extreme cases, they may develop cannabis use disorder. For those people, smoking weed probably isn’t the best choice.
Every consumption method, including smoking, has potential side effects. Some of those associated with smoking cannabis include:
The risks associated with smoking weed increase based on the frequency and duration of use. For people who smoke weed on a moderate basis, the benefits (particularly for patients using cannabis for medical reasons) typically outweigh the risks.
If you’re concerned about experiencing respiratory side effects, try other consumption methods, like edibles, tinctures, or vaporizers. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you’re concerned about experiencing respiratory side effects, other consumption methods (like edibles, tinctures, or vaporizers) may help mitigate those risks.
Is there anyone who should avoid smoking weed?
There are certain groups of people who should avoid cannabis, including:
- People under the age of 21. There is a mountain of evidence that using cannabis while the brain is still developing can lead to serious adverse outcomes, so children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 21 should abstain from smoking weed or consuming cannabis.
- People with psychotic disorders and/or a family history of psychotic disorders . Cannabis may exacerbate symptoms of a psychotic disorder. If you struggle with a mental illness like schizophrenia or psychosis (or you’re at high risk due to a family history of such disorders), it’s recommended that you avoid cannabis altogether.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women. While there is some debate around the safety and potential risks of smoking weed while pregnant or breastfeeding, the research still hasn’t reached any definitive answers. For the sake of the child’s health, most medical professionals recommend erring on the side of caution and abstaining from cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- People with cannabis use disorder. If you find yourself struggling with dependence on cannabis or your cannabis use is interfering with or negatively impacting your life, abstinence is often necessary.
- People on certain medications. Cannabis may interact with certain pharmaceutical drugs. If you’ve been prescribed blood thinners, blood pressure medication, or any other medications to help manage or treat a cardiac condition, it’s important to speak to your doctor about smoking weed and confirm whether there are any potential risks or interactions between cannabis and your prescribed medication. If you’re on any psychiatric drugs, it’s also important to talk to your doctor about whether smoking weed while taking your prescribed drugs can cause any negative side effects.
While the majority of people in the above-mentioned groups should avoid smoking cannabis, there are exceptions, particularly when cannabis is prescribed for medical reasons. Again, the only way to determine whether smoking weed is good or bad in any particular situation is to evaluate the risks and benefits, apply them to yourself and your situation, and come to a personal conclusion for yourself and your health.
From the perspective of consumption, smoking cannabis carries some risk, but not nearly as many risks as smoking cigarettes. Cannabis has the potential to be both helpful and harmful, healthy and unhealthy, “good” and “bad.” It all depends on a variety of factors, including your health, your history, and the way you use cannabis. Weigh the risks and benefits and make the decision that’s right for you.Is smoking weed bad for you? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Inherent risks Potential side-effects Is there anyone who should avoid ]]>