As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the U.S. and worldwide, researchers are learning more about how the virus harms the body and who is more at risk of contracting it and dying from it. For example, recent reports of COVID-19 patients experiencing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have physicians worried about the long-term ramifications of a coronavirus infection for lung health.
As for the risk factors that increase the probability of developing ARDS, (which in turn substantially increases the chances of dying from COVID-19)? Smoking cigarettes—or inhaling other drugs—is a big risk factor, along with obesity, asthma, and COPD. (Diseases that compromise the functioning of the immune system, like HIV/AIDS and cancer, are also risk factors for ARDS.)
But how specifically are smoking and inhaling drugs connected to poor lung health, including ARDS and a much greater likelihood of dying from COVID-19? We invite you to explore that question in greater depth below.
What Is ARDS?
First, a closer look at ARDS, which is currently the biggest danger of smoking cigarettes or inhaling other drugs during this pandemic. ARDS severely inhibits the ability of your lung’s air sacs to send oxygen to red blood cells. Symptoms of ARDS include labored or rapid breathing, shortness of breath, weakness, abnormally low blood pressure, and cognitive confusion. When ARDS affects COVID-19 patients, it can be a life-threatening condition requiring sedation and immediate placement on a ventilator.
The importance of paying extra attention to your lung health during the pandemic cannot be understated. Your brain and body cannot maintain general health without sufficient oxygen being transported by red blood cells. In addition, most people don’t realize that the lungs have a special relationship with your immune system. Lungs damaged by COVID-19 and ARDS directly impact the ability of your immune system to fight infections.
Does Smoking Marijuana Harm Your Lungs?
Although hundreds of research studies have found that marijuana can damage lungs much in the same way cigarettes do, pot advocates refuse to acknowledge this or simply don’t care. Instead, pot smokers focus on the beneficial medicinal effects of marijuana and ignore the facts indicating pot smoke can damage the lungs.
The same toxic carcinogens comprising cigarette smoke are also found in pot smoke. Moreover, pot smokers are inhaling four times more tar than cigarette smokers do. Tar is the chemical substance that lingers after cannabis or tobacco leaves have been burned. Tar is extremely carcinogenic and coats the lungs with a sticky layer of toxins that can only be reduced if you stop smoking.
Carcinogens identified in marijuana smoke include acetaldehyde, arsenic, formaldehyde, cadmium, lead, and pyrene. Anyone considering the use of medical marijuana should always have an in-depth discussion with their provider of the advantages and disadvantages of smoking medical cannabis to treat their particular disease/disorder.
Smoking Crack and Lung Health
Smoking crack not only damages your lungs but your overall health as well. Crack rocks that are put into pipes and smoked are made using ammonia, a caustic, potentially hazardous substance. People who smoke crack frequently suffer from symptoms of chemical pneumonia:
- Severe burning sensations in the eyes, throat, and nose
- Spitting up green mucus or blood-tinged mucus during coughing spells
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing/painful breathing
- Fatigue, weakness, loss of muscle control
- Disorientation or delirium
Be aware that unlike lung damage caused by smoking pot or cigarettes, lung damage caused by smoking crack is not reversible.
Is Vaping Worse Than Smoking Cigarettes or Pot?
E-cigarettes and some vaping products contain nicotine, a chemical just as addictive as opioids. Although nicotine does not directly harm your lungs, it will increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer and worsen kidney disease. All these health problems can negatively impact the immune system and make you much more susceptible to a COVID-19 infection.
Vaping products manufactured overseas may contain carcinogens, heavy metals, and other toxic compounds. Some e-cig vapors made in the U.S. could also contain harmful chemicals and manage to slip “under the radar” of industry regulators.
In the past few years, researchers have associated vaping products with long-term lung injuries resulting in over a dozen deaths. The CDC strongly recommends people do not vape or use e-cigarettes to avoid potentially serious health risks caused by unknown toxic chemicals.
Lung Health Is a Predictor of Your Lifespan
Even a minimal 10 percent reduction of your breathing capacity can leave you tired all the time, compromise your immune system, and put you at a dangerously high risk for suffering serious infections like COVID-19. A famous, longitudinal study called the Framingham study stunned doctors when it found that people with sufficient lung volume were overwhelmingly healthier than people with “shallow” lung volume.
The Framingham study regularly evaluated the health of over 5000 adults for 30 years and concluded that people with healthy or near-healthy lungs lived much longer than those with reduced lung capacity. In other words, they determined that lung condition is likely the “number one predictor” of premature death by illness or disease.
If you vape, smoke pot, or smoke crack regularly, your lung capacity right now is significantly decreased. A consistent lack of oxygen in the brain and body will lead to impaired metabolic functions, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack and debilitate cognition and memory. More importantly, your immune system will stop sending white blood cells to fight viral and bacterial infections. Without enough oxygen, every system in your body will literally start shutting down.
COVID-19 Pandemic is not “Going Away” Any Time Soon
The coronavirus pandemic is now thought to have begun in the fall of 2019 in Wuhan. A highly infectious, airborne disease that can live on surfaces for as long as two days, COVID-19 will continue infecting people worldwide until a vaccine is developed and administered to three billion global citizens. If you smoke cigarettes, smoke pot recreationally, smoke crack, vape or inhale other chemicals to get high, you are at a significantly higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Without healthy lungs, your immune system cannot protect you from life-threatening illnesses and diseases. In more blunt terms, an addiction to smoking and inhaling drugs can kill you.
Get Help for a Smoking Addiction by Calling FHE Health Today
Addictions are overwhelming and inescapable compulsions to engage in behaviors that are detrimental to your physical and psychological health. If you have tried to stop smoking cigarettes, crack cocaine, marijuana, and vaping products and can’t because withdrawal symptoms made you feel too sick, you may have an addiction that could benefit from treatment.
FHE Health’s medical support staff are experts at diagnosing and treating lung problems caused by a smoking addiction. It’s never too late to reverse most of the lung damage caused by smoking cigarettes, pot, or vaping products. It’s also never too late to get help for a crack addiction. The sooner you start allowing your lungs to heal from a smoking addiction, the better your immune system starts working to fight against infections like COVID-19.
For more information about how to quit a drug that’s damaging your lungs and making you more susceptible to COVID-19, please—call us now. We’re here to help.