Why your chest might hurt after smoking weed

Published Apr 28, 2019 01:05 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Justin L. Fowler

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.

Lungs

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.

Heart health

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.

Muscles

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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