In Clearbrook Treatment Centers Massachusetts, Marijuana Drug Abuse

Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke: Side Effects & Risks

Second-hand smoke is smoke that’s inhaled by a person who is not smoking but is near the individual who is. While we know that second-hand cigarette smoke can cause health problems, is marijuana second-hand smoke harmful? As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it’s important to fully understand its side effects. Our Massachusetts rehab shares the effects of second-hand marijuana smoke and why it’s more dangerous than you may think.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana – also referred to as cannabis, weed, pot, ganja, and Mary Jane – is a mixture of dried leaves from the plant Cannabis Sativa. These leaves can be smoked, brewed, or baked into foods. The two main components of marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces side effects like altered senses, an altered perception of time, impaired memory, hallucinations, and delusions. CBD is known to reduce pain, promote sleep, and reduce anxiety. However, more research needs to be done.

While many people take CBD alone for its sedative effects without experiencing the high from THC, even smaller amounts of CBD contain THC. Also, despite CBD’s relaxing effects, the levels of THC in cannabis can surpass those of CBD. When too much THC is smoked or ingested, a person may experience adverse side effects like anxiety, paranoia, and terrifying delusions and hallucinations.

Is Marijuana Second-Hand Smoke Harmful?

Yes, marijuana second-hand smoke is harmful and can be just as impactful as smoking it directly. Second-hand marijuana smoke refers to the smoke that is exhaled by someone who’s smoking marijuana (cannabis), as well as the smoke that’s released from the burning end of a joint, pipe, or another smoking device. When non-smokers are exposed to second-hand weed smoke, they may experience similar side effects to users who are smoking it directly.

Second-hand marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals that are present in second-hand tobacco smoke or cigarette smoke, including tar, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals. Since many cannabis users mix tobacco with marijuana for a more intense high, they also increase their risk of exposure to harmful chemicals as well as the occurrence of adverse side effects.

Some of the most common chemicals in marijuana include:

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Ammonia arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Cadmium
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Chromium
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Isoprene
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Quinoline
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Furthermore, one study found that marijuana smoke had a higher concentration of chemicals like ammonia, nitric oxide, nitrogen oxide, and aromatic amines compared to tobacco smoke.1 These carcinogens and toxins discovered in marijuana are amplified when smoked and are just as harmful to the person inhaling second-hand smoke as they are to the person who’s smoking.

What Are the Side Effects of Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke?

Many of the toxins and chemicals discovered in marijuana smoke are associated with various respiratory and lung diseases. An individual who inhales second-hand marijuana smoke is also at risk of developing these conditions.

Some of the most common health effects of second-hand marijuana smoke include:

  • Anemia
  • Asthma attacks
  • Blood disorders
  • Brain damage
  • Cancers like leukemia
  • Disturbances in blood circulation
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Heart disease
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritation in the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Lung disease
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervous system damage
  • Respiratory problems
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakening of the bones
  • Weakness

We want to highlight a particularly dangerous chemical found in marijuana called hydrogen cyanide. This is a chemical warfare agent and toxic gas that’s produced when nitrogen-containing chemicals are burned.

Hydrogen cyanide works by blocking the body’s ability to use oxygen and can cause death within a matter of minutes. While the levels of this chemical aren’t usually high enough to kill someone inhaling marijuana smoke, consistent exposure to hydrogen cyanide, whether through first-hand or second-hand marijuana weed smoke, can have several long-term effects. These effects can include pulmonary edema, tremors, seizures, paralysis, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and cancer.

It’s also important to note that second-hand exposure to marijuana smoke can have negative health effects, especially for people with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular problems. The extent of these effects may vary depending on the type of cannabis used, frequency of use, and whether it’s mixed with other substances, among other factors.

Finding Marijuana Addiction Treatment Near Me

Marijuana is not only harmful but addictive. A person who forms a habit of consistently smoking marijuana can develop psychological and physical dependence. Like many other recreational substances, once you start smoking weed, you may not be able to stop.

Individuals who buy, sell, and smoke weed are also more likely to party often and be surrounded by other drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse often results from casual experimentation when a person isn’t careful. Medical detox is often required for individuals who develop addictions to quit.

If you or someone you know has had a bad experience with drugs or alcohol or has developed a substance abuse disorder, we can help. Our rehab in Massachusetts offers a wide range of substance abuse treatment, including marijuana addiction treatment. From medically assisted detox to aftercare support, we’re here to help you through every step of your recovery.

For more information about our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab, call Clearbrook Treatment Centers today at 570-536-9621 or send us your contact information, and we’ll reach out to you.


  1. NIH – A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions

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