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Marijuana and Asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition of the lungs that’s caused by inflammation of your airways. As a result, your airways constrict. This leads to wheezing and breathing difficulties.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute , more than 25 million Americans have asthma. Many of them are searching for natural and alternative treatment methods. This includes marijuana (cannabis).

Marijuana is being legalized in many states. Some states have legalized it for medical purposes only. Others have legalized both medical and recreational use of this drug.

You may be wondering whether marijuana could be a potential treatment for asthma, or perhaps you think it probably makes asthma worse. In fact, while smoking marijuana can worsen breathing problems, taking other forms of the plant that don’t require smoking may potentially benefit people with asthma.

A growing body of research is focusing on marijuana’s effects on asthma and whether cannabis plants can offer some relief for the condition. The focus isn’t so much on smoking marijuana joints, but rather on taking cannabinoids instead.

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring substances in marijuana plants. They are sometimes used to treat chronic pain and neurological conditions, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. This is due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Since asthma is caused by a chronic inflammation of the lungs, researchers are trying to find out whether cannabinoids can have similar effects for this condition. Research is especially promising for people who have allergic asthma.

Cannabinoids may be available in the form of supplements. These substances may also be derived from smoking marijuana in nontraditional forms. A 2013 study in the journal Substance Abuse found that people who smoke marijuana using vaporizers gained more benefits from the plant with less lung-irritating smoke.

Still, there are some limits to these potential benefits. One study published in Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine contends that short-term medicinal uses of marijuana may not harm the lungs. This is compared to recreational or heavy smoking. However, it’s not clear just how much is safe or for exactly how long.

Despite any possible benefits, marijuana also poses enormous risks if you have asthma. This is particularly the case if you smoke it. Smoking any substance can increase inflammation in your lungs. This makes asthma symptoms worse.

Smoking marijuana may even increase your risk for an asthma attack. In severe cases, you may need to be hospitalized for an asthma attack. This helps to prevent life-threatening complications.

When you smoke marijuana, large air sacs called bullae may start to develop in your lungs. These can eventually disrupt your breathing. According to the American Thoracic Society, you’re at an increased risk of developing bullae from smoking marijuana if you’re under the age of 45.

Over time, bullae can grow and cause shortness of breath. What’s even more dangerous is the development of pneumothorax. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when bullae rupture in the lungs.

In the short term, smoking marijuana can cause:

  • frequent coughing
  • lung infections
  • phlegm
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing

Smoking is perhaps one of the most common ways to use marijuana. Still, this isn’t the only form of marijuana available.

Aside from traditional joints, some people prefer smoking marijuana with other tools such as bong. In theory, these can help reduce the amount of smoke you inhale. However, not enough studies have been done to determine whether such devices make smoking marijuana any safer.

Vaping marijuana by warming the plant results in less smoke being inhaled. CBD and THC, two compounds of marijuana, can be taken orally in food or capsules. Oils with CBD can be applied to the skin. The entire marijuana plant is often available in food products.

Nonsmoking forms of marijuana are also less likely to irritate your lungs. These include extracts that may be mixed with food and CBD oils that are available as supplements.

Numerous conventional treatment options are available for people with asthma. Aside from quick-relief medications, such as inhalers, your doctor may recommend drugs that provide more long-term control. These help stop asthma symptoms before they become problematic by decreasing inflammation. Examples include:

  • nebulizers
  • inhaled corticosteroids
  • leukotriene tablets

If you’re looking for more “natural” forms of asthma treatment, talk to your doctor about the following options:

  • breathing exercises
  • meditation
  • massage
  • acupuncture

When it comes to using marijuana for asthma, there’s an ongoing debate about the benefits versus the risks. The negative effects of tobacco smoke — especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma — have been well-established. As marijuana becomes legalized in many areas, only then can more research be done.

However, the bottom line is that smoking marijuana can indeed be harmful if you have asthma. Overall, smoking marijuana is unsafe for people with lung disease.

Talk to your doctor about all the options for asthma treatment, and ask whether other forms of marijuana could benefit your particular case.

Last medically reviewed on December 6, 2018

Marijuana (cannabis) is being legalized in many states. You may be wondering whether marijuana could be a potential treatment for asthma. A growing body of research is focusing on marijuana’s effects on asthma and whether cannabis plants can offer some relief for the condition. Learn the benefits and risks.

Cannabis Inhalers: Are They Effective?

Saturday December 21, 2019

F ollowing on the heels of more widespread cannabis legalization has come a multitude of ways to consume the versatile plant, like edibles, concentrates, dry herb vaporizers, and many more. One such innovation is the advent of the cannabis inhaler. Similar to inhalers used for asthma, they deliver a discrete and precise dose of cannabis compounds CBD or THC. Cannabis inhalers offer a combustion-less consumption experience that could be perceived as safer than other methods, like vape pens (especially given the recent vape cartridge crisis) and smoking joints, which comes with many unpleasant side effects, like the inhalation of smoke – known to contain hazardous chemicals like carbon dioxide and particulates. And don’t forget, every time you light up you’re inhaling some of the chemicals from your lighter, like butane. But are cannabis inhalers effective?

Information on Inhaled Cannabis and Marijuana Inhaler Features

CBD and THC dosed precisely in inhalers is believed to help those with lung conditions like asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Some studies have shown that THC delivered via inhaler can act as an effective bronchodilator that works as well as known asthma inhalers Albuterol or Ipratropium for one-to-two hours.

Bronchodilators are very important for the treatment of asthma, a serious and potentially dangerous lung disease that inflames and narrows lung airways, causing shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Bronchodilators can relieve these symptoms by relaxing the muscle bands that tighten around the airways, and clear mucus from the lungs.

A New England Journal of Medicine study found as far back as 1973 that inhaled cannabis caused bronchodilation (though particulate matter from smoke can be a lung irritant), saying, “Marihuana smoke, unlike cigarette smoke, causes bronchodilation rather than broncho-constriction [narrowing of the air passages], and, unlike opiates, does not cause central respiratory depression [i.e. a decrease in breathing>.”

It is believed that cannabis activates the CB1 receptor, present in the peripheral and central nervous systems, and inhibits the contraction of airways.

It is also thought that the activation of the CB1 receptor reduces pain, hyperalgesia (heightened sensitivity to pain), rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pain. Some medical patients prefer using cannabis inhalers because they are discrete, smokeless, virtually odorless, and won’t call any undue attention to your marijuana medicine of choice because cannabis inhalers closely resemble regular inhalers. One benefit of cannabis inhalers is that they are thought to have a higher bioavailability, which refers to the degree and rate that medicine is absorbed and its effects felt.

Cannabis Inhalers on the Market

Currently, two companies, Panaxia Pharmaceuticals, and Rafa Pharmaceuticals are working on cannabis inhaler clinical trials targeting cancer and asthma patients. They believe that cannabis inhalers will gain easier market acceptance because inhalers are already a familiar mode of administering medication. They are also betting that cannabis inhalers will help cannabis on the whole be more accepted by doctors, because inhalers can be precisely dosed.

Though cannabis inhalers have yet to make a big impact in cannabis markets, there are a couple of THC inhalers available at dispensaries in Colorado, including the AeroInhaler and the Santana Smooth (yes, that Santana, the inhaler is named after the song “Smooth,” the 1999 hit collaboration of Santana and Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas). Designed to dose precise hits of THC and terpenes, these inhalers are not necessarily for those looking for a euphoric high due to their precise dose delivery. However, THC, despite its party-boy reputation, is thought to have many healing properties, like pain and inflammation reduction, appetite stimulation, and the reduction of nausea and vomiting.

Other inhalers on the market are the CBD-only Maven Hemp, the Vapen Clear, which offers THC, THC/CBD hybrids, as well as CBD hybrids, and the CBD Luxe. Right now, cannabis inhalers are not the cheapest option on the market, retailing from an average of $50-100 for 100 puffs. By contrast, even more expensive vape pens top out at $40-60.

So, is it worth it to pony up the extra cash for a cannabis inhaler? That depends. If you, as a consumer have been concerned by the illnesses and deaths related to vaping, finding a consumption method that feels safe is important. Or if you are a medical patient with asthma, COPD, or other lung illness, using an inhaler can provide quick and discrete access to medicine that won’t upset your lungs.

Have you tried cannabis or CBD inhalers? Share your experiences with other readers in the comments below.

Cannabis inhalers are a new way of marijuana consumption. Learn more about their effectiveness and information relating to the dosing of CBD and THC, as well as what's available on the market.