Could Cannabis Benefit COPD Patients?
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states in the U.S., as well as Washington, D.C., but its use is a contentious issue with as many people for it as against it.
How could medical marijuana help those with COPD? According to the Lung Institute, medical marijuana has been found useful in reducing inflammation, improving sleep, easing pain, supporting the immune system, and reducing phlegm. However, one of the big issues when it comes to using cannabis if you have a pulmonary disease, is smoking.
Smoking cannabis is harmful to those with lung diseases as there is generally no filter on the “joint” and people tend to inhale deeper, leaving the smoke in the lungs for much longer (than cigarettes or other tobacco products). The American Thoracic Society strongly argues against the smoking of marijuana, citing that it can cause large air sacs (bullae) to form in the lungs which could pop and cause lung collapse, ironically this is more likely to happen to marijuana smokers who are younger rather than older (under 45).
There are alternatives to smoking, many people who don’t already smoke but want to get the benefits of medical marijuana choose to either ingest the product through edible items (such as cookies or brownies) or vapor (where the cannabis is heated at a lower temperature than burning which releases the active ingredients into a steam or vapor which can then be inhaled).
Some people may find that medical marijuana offers temporary relief from some of the symptoms of COPD, but as it also comes with the side effect of getting high, there is a moral and safety dilemma for many.
As states across the U.S. continue to push marijuana law reform, there are currently 26 states that have legalized marijuana in some form or another. For those who currently suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or another form of chronic lung disease, finding an effective treatment option can be difficult. For many with the disease, traditional treatment options can only work to relieve symptoms rather than address disease progression. When seeking alternative treatment options, the topic of natural treatments can be a reoccurring subject- namely the effects of marijuana cannabinoids on opening up the airways of the lungs.
With your health in mind, the Lung Health Institute is here to breakdown the sometimes controversial topic of Marijuana and COPD: Can it Help?
Marijuana and COPD- What Does It Do?
COPD symptoms are typically brought about by acute inflammation of the airways, which obstructs and inhibits normal breathing. When treating COPD, commonly prescribed medications such as inhalers and corticosteroids are employed to work as anti-inflammatory agents, acting to reduce inflammation and dilate the respiratory airways. The downside of these medications, however, is that they can be expensive over time and often come coupled with more than a few negative side-effects, including weight gain, blood sugar imbalance and infection.
In recent medical developments, it’s been found that medical marijuana has shown efficacy in treating respiratory illness, and it has been linked to holding anti-inflammatory properties. These beneficial chemicals latent in marijuana are called cannabinoids and are known to have several additional functions including:
- Supporting the immune system
- Possessing anti-microbial properties
- Phlegm reduction
- Pain Relief
- Promoting Better Sleep
However, regardless of the potential benefits of these marijuana chemicals, the issue remains that the act of smoking is still inherently dangerous to respiratory health.
The Problem with Smoking
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, smoking is terrible for you. Not only does it actively shave time off your life, but it reduces the quality of life for the time that you have. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana cigarette smoke contains over 700 chemicals and deposits nearly four times as much tar as tobacco smoke. Now, though cigarette smoke is different than that of marijuana, the downside to a marijuana cigarette or joint is that it does not contain a filter. Often the smoke inhaled from marijuana is held in deeply and fills the lungs for a longer period of time than traditional cigarette smoking. This inherently makes it as—if not more—dangerous to respiratory health as cigarette smoking.
But is there a way to ingest these beneficial chemicals without having to inhale them?
Alternatives to Inhaling
The benefit to marijuana in comparison to other traditional treatment options is the flexibility of the form. Today, marijuana can be ingested through baked edibles, boiled and strained into teas, vaporized rather than consumed through smoke or consumed through non-THC reactive oils such as Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which can be taken orally as a drop.
Although medical marijuana can serve as a temporary method of treatment for symptom relief, in all cases of marijuana consumption aside from CBD oil (which removes the THC reactive chemical that gets you high), marijuana has the unfortunate side-effect of getting you high. Another consideration is that although some form of legalization has occurred in 26 states, the legality of marijuana on the federal level is still an ongoing issue.