Cannabis Science

Can Smoking Weed Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

woman touching her lymph nodes under the jaw with both hands

Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are an essential part of our immune system. They can be found in various places in the body, such as the neck and armpit. One of their functions is to help us fight off infections. They can alert us that something is wrong. An indication that there is an infection or something else going on is having swollen lymph nodes. There has been chatter within the stoner community that smoking weed causes swollen lymph nodes. So, can smoking weed cause swollen lymph nodes? Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash 

Can Weed Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

There have been reports of it, but we don’t quite understand why.

Lymph nodes swell for a variety of reasons, According to Mayo Clinic, lymph nodes swell because of bacterial or viral infections. In addition to that, swollen lymph nodes may be due to cancer but that’s rare. 

However, stoners on Reddit say they experience swollen lymph nodes after they used weed. One user said they had strep throat which caused them to have swollen lymph nodes. After they recovered and started using weed again, they said, “every time I smoke the lymph nodes in my neck will get swollen before I even finish the bowl. It starts to feel like they’re blocking my throat. They will remain that way until the next day.” They noted that they used to be heavy smokers. 

What was interesting was that there were plenty of comments with others saying the same thing happens to them.  

For example, one user said, “Totally been getting this for a couple weeks now.” Another user said, “Yup this used to happen to me.”

In addition to that, someone asked, “Can smoking cause slightly swollen lymph nodes (5-10mm) in one side of the neck?” on HealthTap. Dr. Louis Cooper answered saying it wasn’t likely and that the poster should see a doctor. 

There is also a case study of a stoner who had swollen lymph nodes. According to the case study, the 22-year-old patient smoked three blunts per week for the last three years. They didn’t use cigarettes. In addition to swollen lymph nodes, the patient showed sore throat and fatigue. After tests were conducted, it was concluded that they had a rare case of small-cell lung cancer.

As you can see, in that case, the patient had cancer which would probably explain the swollen lymph nodes. 

mushroom skull bong feb sale

Smoking and Swollen Lymph Nodes 

In two of the cases stated above, the stoners that reported swollen lymph nodes were heavy smokers. 

Interestingly, a study linked heavy smoking to swollen lymph nodes. The 2011 comparative study found that heavy cigarette smokers had higher rates of swollen lymph nodes. 52% of smokers in the study had enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes. In addition to that, the study stated, “Airway wall thickening and emphysema were often associated with an increased number of enlarged nodes.”

While this study looked at cigarette smoke and not weed smoke, both types of smoke have similar components. 

Research is needed to figure out why swollen lymph nodes are associated with smoking. 

Can Other Drugs Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes? 

Yes, hitting a bong isn’t the only way you can get swollen lymph nodes. As a matter of fact, American Addiction Center says, “any type of chronic substance abuse can lead to a disruption of the efficiency of the lymphatic system.” 

The reasons behind it are:

  • lack of attention to self-care
  • the direct effects of the drug itself, 
  • the effects of substances that are added to the drug 

Here are some of the ways, in more detail, that drugs can result in swollen lymph nodes. 

Blocked Lymph Nodes

In addition to that, American Addiction Centers says, other drugs can cause blocked lymph nodes which often results in swelling. In addition to that drugs may cause swollen lymph nodes by causing infections or cancer. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

American Addiction Centers say that drugs, especially when injected, can cause significant scarring in the venous and lymphatic system. As a result, the development of blockages in the lymphatic vessels could occur which can therefore cause swollen lymph nodes. 


The article went on to say that certain drugs can cause cancer which would result in a swollen lymph node. Alcohol, for example, introduces carcinogens and increases estrogen and the production of free radicals. By doing this, alcohol can cause cancer. In addition, synthetic marijuana can also have carcinogens and therefore it’s used can cause cancer which may lead to swollen lymph nodes. 

Increased Risk of Infections

In terms of increased risk of infections, drugs, like cocaine can negatively affect the immune system. American Addiction Centers says, “chronic cocaine abuse suppresses the gland that produces the immune cells T lymphocytes, which attack foreign invaders.: If your T lymphocytes are lowered that means you’ll be susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Both of these can result in swollen lymph nodes. 


Can smoking weed cause swollen lymph nodes? It appears so. We aren’t sure how they’re linked, but many stoners complain about it. We have many questions about it, such as why it happens and if the smoke is the culprit. Besides the one case where cancer appeared to cause the swelling, we’re not sure why it happens. Hopefully, research can shed some more light on this. We also thought it was interesting that the use of other drugs was linked to swollen lymph nodes. However, there were more concrete reasons why. If you’re experiencing swollen lymph nodes after smoking weed, you may want to visit your doctor for answers.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].