How are the lungs affected by drugs?
Because the lungs provide the oxygen directly and very effectively to the body, anything that is inhaled similarly enters the blood and ultimately the brain very quickly. This is most promounced in drugs that are normally snorted but are chemically altered to make them more smokable, such as cocaine into crack and amphetamine into methamphetamine. The lungs’ ability to absorb large amounts of these drugs in a short space off time, roughly 8 seconds, mean that the effects can be almost instant and very powerful.
Some drugs can also be inhaled, such as solvents and poppers/nitrites Again, the solvents are absorbed into the lungs almost instantly.
Another, relatively more dangerous, method is insuffelation. This is the method often used by asthma sufferers when using inhalers, where a fine spray is rapidly inhaled into the lungs. Done properly this method is as efficient as smoking, but safer, because it doesn’t damage the lungs in the same way smoke does. Done wrongly and it can cause permanent damage to the lungs, due to the drug attacking the lungs’ cells bronchils, or even suffocation or overdosing, due to the drugs clogging the bronchils.
These methods should not to be confused with snorting (as with cocaine or amphetamine powder) which is absorbed through the thin tissue (nasal membrane) in the nose into the blood stream – though some powder can enter the lungs.
The dangers of tobacco smoking, such as tar build up, asthma, swelling and damaging of the lung walls and bronchils (the cells that absorb oxgen and drugs into the blood stream) and ultimately cancer, are pertinent to most drugs that are smoked. Cannabis for example has its own carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals. If smoked with tobacco in a joint, these dangerous chemicals can double up, increasing the chance of developing lung cancer.
A common misconception is that smoking addictive drugs such as heroin is safer and less addictive than injecting. While smoking a drug allows the user to monitor and control the amounts entering the body more easily, the drug is no different. Whether smoked or injected, heroin still has the same addictive potential.
Drugs that can be smoked are cannabis, cocaine (usually sprinkled in a cigarette or joint), crack, ecstasy (in a joint), heroin, opium, ice/methamphetamine, DMT, and tobacco. Drugs that are inhaled are solvents, poppers and nitrus oxyde (laughing gas).