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Cigarettes and Pot Go Hand in Hand
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And, according to a new study, where there’s cigarette smoke there’s a good chance there’s also pot smoke. In a survey of young people ages 18 to 25, more than half said they used both tobacco and marijuana. In previous research, just 35 percent admitted to using both.
Because the study was done anonymously online, primarily through Facebook, experts believe people were more willing to be honest about their habits than in past studies. Researchers first questioned participants about their tobacco habit and then asked whether they’ve used marijuana in the past 30 days. While age, gender and income appeared to have no effect, both drugs were most commonly used among young adults who were:
- From the Northeast
- Living in rural areas
- Not in school
Serious Health Consequences of Smoking
While the research on the respiratory consequences of smoking pot has produced conflicting results, combining marijuana and cigarette smoking is extremely harmful to the lungs. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that people who smoke both cigarettes and marijuana have a particularly high risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Those who smoked marijuana by itself did not have a significantly higher COPD risk, leading researchers to speculate that smoking pot sensitized the airways, making participants more vulnerable to the adverse effects of cigarette smoking.
Although users often believe marijuana is safer than tobacco, each poses serious risks. Smoking tobacco increases the risk not only of lung cancer and emphysema but also heart disease and high blood pressure. Marijuana, which contains more than double the number of carcinogens than tobacco, has also been linked with lung infections with chronic use as well as problems with memory, learning and coordination, heart attack, impaired immune function, anxiety, and paranoia. Both drugs are addictive.
Addressing the Problem
Many experts are not surprised by the study findings linking tobacco use with marijuana use. It is common for people with substance abuse problems to struggle with nicotine dependence. Even in drug rehab or at a 12-Step meeting, it is not unusual to find people chain smoking or simultaneously trying to kick a smoking habit.
Researchers hope that having an accurate perspective of the problem will aid in funding additional research and making appropriate treatment available to young people. Given the high level of responsiveness, it may be that therapies made available through social media channels may be effective for young people. Experts also believe anyone seeking smoking cessation services should be screened for other drug abuse problems, with both addictions addressed at the same time.