Marijuana and Voice Injury

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By Dr. Reena Gupta*

How does Marijuana affect the voice?
There are many potential ef- fects of marijuana on the voice. The effects are based on how marijuana is con- sumed. The inhaled form (i.e., joint, volcano, vaporizer, etc), regardless of the method, re- sults in vocal swelling called laryngitis. Some inhaled meth- ods, such as a vaporizer, result in a lesser degree of laryngitis than others such as unfiltered joints. A tired, rough, raspy, or hoarse voice are symptoms of laryngitis. Laryngitis is the gateway to more serious, and often permanent, vocal injury.

Can marijuana lead to serious voice problems?
Laryngitis occurs regardless of the device used to inhale mar- ijuana. The singer must then strain to produce a normal voice; higher notes are partic- ularly strenuous. This occurs because swollen vocal folds cannot vibrate freely to pro- duce sound. Typically, a singer suffering from inhalation lar- yngitis will produce little to no sound when trying to sing quietly in the upper register because higher notes require faster vibration. Additional ef- fort will need to be exerted to produce any sound at all and quiet singing is often not pos- sible. This places extra strain on the swollen instrument,

causing further inflammation. These events can result in the development of nodules, a vo- cal hemorrhage (bruise), or vocal polyps. Scarring of the vocal folds, which is irrevers- ible, may also develop

Does vocal damage occur af- ter one use or multiple uses?Inhalation of marijuana, even on one occasion, can irritate the vocal folds and cause lar- yngitis. If the voice user then attempts to use his/her voice in the following days to sing or speak, further damage can occur which can lead to vocal nodules, hemorrhages, pol- yps, or vocal fold scarring.

Can smoking marijuana lead to permanent voice damage?Yes, without prompt evalua- tion and treatment, marijuana use can potentially lead to ir- reversible vocal damage. Mar- ijuana use causes laryngitis which makes the vocal cords susceptible to vocal damage. Many performers who smoke will not be able to obtain care for symptoms of vocal injury (hoarseness, tired voice, etc). Because the artist’s lifestyle is very busy and performanc- es are not movable, care and voice rehabilitation are mar- ginalized. Unfortunately, this behavior often causes perma- nent voice changes.

How do I know if I have dam- aged my voice by smoking marijuana?
If you have a raspy, tired, or rough sounding voice after smoking marijuana, you most likely have some vocal injury, even if temporary. Because the vocal cords are not vis- ible without instrumenta- tion, it is not possible for the singer to see the condition of their instrument. In all cases of suspected vocal injury, stro- boscopy by a qualified voice doctor, a laryngologist, and a voice therapist is highly rec- ommended. Laryngologists are specially trained physi- cians that evaluate and treat disorders of the larynx (voice box).

Who should evaluate and treat my voice issues?
All cases of suspected vocal injury should be evaluated and treated by a qualified lar- yngologist and voice thera- pist team. These physicians specialize in disorders of the voice box (larynx). A skilled laryngologist works with a voice therapist to determine if there is any injury and counsel you about safer marijuana use.

* To learn more about Dr. Re- ena Gupta or how marijuana affects the voice, please visit www.voicedoctorla.com

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