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Occasional Marijuana Use Not Linked to Lung Problems

Northwestern researcher is co-author on new marijuana use and lung function study

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January 12, 2012 | by Erin White

CHICAGO --- “This is the largest scale study that has looked at marijuana use in the context of lung function and what we’ve shown is occasionally smoking marijuana cigarettes does not cause long-term loss of lung function,” said Northwestern Medicine’s Ravi Kalhan, M.D., a co-author of a new study in the Jan. 11, 2012, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Kalhan is an assistant professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of the Northwestern Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease program.

The findings of the 20-year study focus on the effect occasional marijuana use, two to three marijuana cigarettes a month, has on two specific pulmonary functions: airflow and lung volume.

Other health complications associated with marijuana use were not included in this study. Evidence from this study suggests that heavier marijuana use could cause a long-term decline in lung function.

Data for the study comes from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Northwestern is one of several CARDIA sites and research institutions involved in the study published in JAMA.