Why your chest might hurt after smoking weed
Marijuana use can offer a massive array of potential benefits for both medical and recreational consumers and is often viewed as the safest possible alternative due to its non-toxic status and very few side effects. Despite it’s growing popularity as a healthy alternative to either alcohol or pharmaceutical medications, there are a few possible adverse effects that should be taken into consideration. There is, of course, the potential of motor impairment, which might hinder your ability to drive, walk, or perform other essential tasks that require a fast reaction time, but the most uncomfortable is generally described as a pain or tightening of the chest that happens immediately after smoking weed. Here we will help you to understand the possible causes behind this negative reaction and offer alternative solutions that might help to ease this problem.
The effects of marijuana use on the lungs are impossible to deny. Though it is much safer than chemical laden cigarettes, there are still plenty of elements in cannabis that have the potential to inflame the lungs immediately after inhalation. This is caused by the body as it reacts to the introduction of a noxious smoke entering the lungs and agitating the lining. The other unfortunately difference between cigarettes and marijuana use is how long a toke is held and how deep a user inhales when they smoke it. A cigarette is typically smoked by taking light, gentle puffs that are immediately exhaled, where consumers who are smoking weed will take much deeper breaths and attempt to hold them in as long as possible. This causes a significant amount of irritation that is almost equal to cigarette smokers in the short term. Luckily, these symptoms will leave pot smokers in approximately 72 hours or less after obtaining unlike cigarettes that can take years, but it’s still an issue.
A lot of people don’t realize that marijuana use can harm the user’s overall heart health which is a common contributor to complaints of chest pain immediately after smoking weed. Cannabinoids interact with the bodies endocannabinoid receptors to trigger a release of natural chemicals and hormones within the person’s body. Quite often the result is a slightly increased pain tolerance that keeps troubling symptoms to a minimum, but they after often still felt for several reasons. Smoking weed will increase blood pressure and heart rate which can cause additional strain on the heart. This can be especially dangerous for anyone who has prior heart problems and increases the chance of heart attacks and stroke. In chronic users, it can also line the ¼ inch thick valves of the heart with the natural sticky coating from the introduction of cannabis smoke into the bloodstream.
The lungs are lined with hundreds of muscles and ligaments that work in combination with one another every time to move or breath. Those who have problems like prior muscle damage or anxiety are especially susceptible to this kind of chest pain since their muscles are already over extended or inflamed. Typically, the pains will be sharp and short and fluctuate with intensity as the muscle contract through regular movements. These pains may seem worrisome, but they should begin to subside as the injury heals.
Bacteria or other illness
Medical conditions and colds like bronchitis, pneumonia, or the introduction of a bad bacterial virus can also cause chest pains after marijuana use. If you feel pain or discomfort for weeks or longer after smoking weed, than it is recommended to seek medical treatment for an underlying condition.
How to avoid chest pain after marijuana use
Now that you know some of the most common reasons for chest pain after smoking weed, you are probably wondering how to prevent chest pain altogether. Smoking cannabis may, unfortunately, lead to some of the listed problems here, but there are a few things you can alter to still gain the benefits of the cannabinoids without the discomfort.
Take manageable hits.
Smoking weed doesn’t have to be a competition based on who can take the biggest hits. Though it might be fun in a group of close friends, that’s the best way to end up experiencing some form of chest pain after marijuana use. Instead take smaller, more manageable tokes and release them immediately. Since the cannabinoids are absorbed within seconds, so there is no need to hurt yourself by holding on to it longer.
Use a device that suits your lung capacity.
Every person has their own unique build and design leaving some of us with a lower lung capacity than the rest. Lung capacity is normally measured by the amount of air you can inhale at one time, and each device will suit a different capability in that area. Joints and smaller weed pipes will offer a much smoother hit that will be much less likely to induce any unwanted chest pains.
Try a vaporizer.
Vaporizers are the all the rage these days and for very good reason. They are a much healthier and smoother way to consume marijuana without the harmful carcinogens that are found in smoke. Not all vaporizers are created equally, and those that use dry herb and oil concentrates will be relatively smooth, while those with shatter should be avoided by anyone who experiences chest pain after smoking weed.
Consider marijuana edibles or tinctures.
Smoking weed is easy which is why so many still to this day do it despite the hundreds of other options out there for consumption. Other alternatives are recommended if you are sick or already experiencing pain like oral tinctures, oils, or other marijuana extracts which can be made into a base ingredient and then cooked with. They can also be encapsulated for a completely smoke and taste free way to enjoy cannabis without the potential chest pains.
Pills, patches, and inhalers.
Medical marijuana has come a long way since legalization just last year, with many different companies releasing new and exciting methods of administering cannabinoids like THC or CBD without any harmful consequences which might come from smoking weed. Pills can be taken orally, tinctures are meant to drink, and inhalers will release a thin and properly measured dose that is easy to use without harming the lungs.
When to worry about chest pain after smoking weed
Though we have touched on some of the most common reasons for chest pain after marijuana use, there are thousands of other possibilities that can be caused by an underlying issue. If you or someone you know ever experiencing any of the following symptoms it is highly recommended that you seek medical assessment immediately.
- Severe pain
- Sudden pain
- Pain longer than 15 minutes.
- Pain during exercise.
- Pain that travels from the chest to the jaw, left arm and/or upper back.
- Pain alongside other symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, short breath, trouble breathing, dizziness or nausea.
Here we will help you to understand the possible causes behind this negative reaction and offer alternative solutions that might help to ease this problem.
Why Does My Chest Hurt After Smoking Weed?
There are a few possible causes of your chest pain after smoking weed. Although there are potential medical benefits of marijuana use, according to Frontiers in Medicine and other reviews, smoking pot can cause adverse physical and psychological effects. The problems can affect your heart, blood vessels, and lungs and cause chest pain.
Effects on the Heart
Several case reports provide evidence of the effects of marijuana on the heart. One report was published in 2010 in the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma and Shock of two young men who went to an emergency room with acute chest pain.
The pain started one hour to an hour and a half after smoking weed, and one man had a heart attack shortly after admission. Based on the evaluation of these two men and their outcomes, the authors outlined the effects of pot on the heart and blood vessels in certain circumstances that explains chest pain and heart attacks.
Low Doses of Marijuana
Smoking low doses of marijuana causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and the work of the heart. This can decrease blood supply and oxygen to the heart muscle. This can cause chest pain or a heart attack in a person with or without underlying heart disease or risk factors.
High Doses of Marijuana
At higher doses, weed does the opposite of low doses and slows heart rate and decreases blood pressure. This can also lead to a decrease in the supply of blood and oxygen to heart muscle and cause chest pain and a heart attack.
History of Coronary Artery Disease
In someone with a history of coronary artery disease, the marijuana effects can cause chest pain and a heart attack by rupturing cholesterol plaques, thus causing blockage of a coronary artery.
Effect of Increased Carbon Dioxide
Smoking marijuana also increases carbon dioxide in the blood, leading to lower oxygen supply to the heart muscle and narrowing of normal coronary arteries, causing chest pain and an increased risk for a heart attack.
The following statistics will give you some perspective on the adverse effects of smoked marijuana on the cardiovascular system:
- The risk of having an acute heart attack shortly after smoking weed is four times greater than in non-users, according to the above referenced report.
- A 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association published analysis of a French database of young marijuana smokers. In this study, 1.8% of the reports related to cardiovascular incidents. Out of 1979 participants, nine of these cases resulted in death.
Authors of a 2002 article in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology advise that people with underlying heart disease should be warned they are at even greater risk for chest pain and heart attacks from smoking marijuana.
Airway and Lung Disease
Regular or heavy weed smoking affects your airways and lung tissue, which can make your chest hurt during and in between smoking.
A review of marijuana and lung diseases in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine notes smoking pot leads to coughing and chest pain from:
- Irritation and inflammation of your large airway (pharyngitis)
- Irritation and inflammation in your small airways and lung spaces (bronchitis)
Factors That Increase Irritation and Damage
The following factors increase the chance of airway and lung irritation and damage:
- Holding in smoke after inhaling: Some marijuana smokers tend to hold the pot smoke longer in their lungs to increase absorption of the weed in their blood.
- The amount of weed: A 2007 review in Thorax states the bad effects on the airways and lungs increase the greater the amount of weed you smoke. The effects are worse than smoking cigarettes.
- Contamination of weed: Bacteria or fungus in the weed can cause bacterial or fungal lung infections and chest pain, according to the Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine review cited above.
Smoking weed can also irritate or inflame the muscles of the rib cage or the cartilage joints between your ribs and sternum (breastbone). This condition, called costochondritis, can cause your chest to hurt, especially when you breathe in. According to the Mayo Clinic, costochondritis symptoms can seem like a heart attack, so you might find it difficult to tell them apart.
Repetitive Deep Breathing
Lots of repetitive deep breathing and expansion of your lungs when you smoke pot can further irritate or inflame your chest muscles and rib joints. The habit of some marijuana smokers of drawing deeply on their weed and holding it in their lungs before exhaling makes this problem more likely to happen, according to HealthHype.com.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Anxiety and panic attacks can cause chest tightness and pain that may be difficult to distinguish from heart pain. According to reports, such as a 2015 review in Neurotherapeutics, marijuana use may cause acute anxiety or panic, especially if you smoke a lot of it.
The Potential Explanation for This Effect
Based on a 2009 article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, anxiety, fear, paranoia, or psychosis may be caused by activation of certain areas of the brain by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of weed.
If you have anxiety or a panic attack after smoking weed, your subsequent chest pain may be related to these adverse effects of pot on the brain. Hyperventilating because of anxiety and panic can increase your chest pain and create a cycle of more panic and more pain. If you hyperventilate, you may also notice numbness and tingling in your hands, fingers, and face.
Evidence of Cause and Effect
Scientific evidence of cause and effect of smoking pot and anxiety and panic attacks is complicated, according to a 2009 article in Neuropsychopharmacology. This is because marijuana use is more common among people who already have underlying anxiety and panic disorders.
You have no way of knowing if the weed you buy is clean, or if contaminants in it may be the cause of your chest pain. Be aware that your pot might be laced with unknown substances that can have more harmful effects on your heart, lungs, and other body systems than marijuana itself.
According to the Smithsonian, modern marijuana is more potent and contains pesticides, heavy metals, and other substances, in addition to organisms that can infect the lungs.
What to Do if Your Chest Hurts
When you chest hurts after smoking weed, it might not be possible to tell if it is from your heart or from other causes of chest pain. Don’t hesitate to call 911 or go immediately to an emergency room if your pain:
- Is severe or persistent
- Radiates down your left arm, into your left jaw, or between your shoulder blades
- Is accompanied by palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating
It is better to be evaluated and find out your pain wasn’t caused by a heart attack than to risk dying from one.
Consider the Risks
Consider that even if you are young and have no risk factors, you can have a heart attack or severe lung disease from smoking marijuana. Your risk is greater if you have underlying heart disease, lung disease, or other risk factors. If you have recurrent chest pain, think about cutting back or stopping your weed smoking habit. There are other dangers of marijuana that might also motivate you to make a change.
There are a few possible causes of your chest pain after smoking weed. Although there are potential medical benefits of marijuana use, according to …