Can You Treat Asthma with Cannabis?
Asthma is a chronic health condition that affects the respiratory system. Asthma has been on the rise since the 1980s, and over 25 million people in the United States alone currently have asthma. Asthma causes a number of respiratory issues, including episodes of severe difficulty breathing, which can be fatal. There is no cure for asthma, but when properly managed, its effects can be dramatically reduced. In their search for effective asthma treatments, researchers have discovered a positive link between cannabis use and improvements in asthma symptoms.
Marijuana and asthma
Since asthma is often attributed to inhalation of smoke or other pollutants, it seems logical that marijuana use would worsen or cause asthma. Surprisingly enough, many asthma patients have found the benefits of cannabis to outweigh the potential drawbacks of exposure to its smoke.
What causes asthma?
People with asthma experience inflammation and constriction of the airways between the mouth and nose and the lungs (bronchospasm). This effect can range from mildly irritating to very severe. Well-controlled asthma may present few symptoms at all. At the other end of the spectrum is a condition called asthma exacerbation (better known as an “asthma attack”). During an asthma attack, the airways become so inflamed and constricted that breathing becomes extremely difficult. Asthma attacks can be life-threatening.
Some people suffer frequent attacks, others very rarely. The likelihood of having an asthma attack increases in response to viral infections (including the common cold), exercise, laughing, crying, emotional stress, hyperventilation, cold temperatures, or irritating substances in the air (including smoke). Asthma attacks are typically worse first thing in the morning or at night.
The exact cause of asthma is still unknown and even appears to vary from person to person. Asthma is considered to be an auto-immune condition – where the immune system overreacts to potentially dangerous substances and ends up damaging the body in the process. In most cases, asthma develops as an allergic reaction. Asthma can be aggravated by specific airborne substances, such as secondhand smoke, pollutants like construction dust, pet dander, dust mites, or auto exhaust. Asthma frequently develops in childhood, and the risk is higher for children who experience recurrent viral respiratory infections. Exposure to certain airborne microbes may also contribute to the development of asthma, although other microbes appear to offer some protection against it. There is still much more research needed to fully understand asthma and what causes it.
How weed can help asthma
Research suggests that in many cases, yes, weed can help asthma. Marijuana has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation directly contributes to bronchospasm. In the 1920s, physicians were well-aware of weed’s therapeutic effects and used to prescribe it as a cough treatment for asthma sufferers. Research has shown that people (with or without asthma) who smoke weed develop a higher lung capacity than those who do not. However, chronic heavy use of smoked marijuana may have the opposite effect.
The best way to treat asthma with weed
In most cases, vaporizing or “vaping” weed is the best delivery method to relieve an asthma attack. Smoking and vaping weed both go to work immediately, helping to relax and open the constricted airways. Because you are inhaling vapor instead of smoke, vaping is easier on the lungs. Some people do find effective asthma relief from smoking weed and feel that the benefits outweigh any irritation. However, if vaporizing is an option, it’s likely the better of the two. Edible marijuana does hold potential as a long-term asthma treatment. But if you are in the midst of an attack, edibles won’t help much since they take much longer to kick in.
Whether you smoke or vape cannabis to alleviate your asthma, you may experience a dry throat and/or coughing. Keep water on hand to help manage these potential side effects. Opting for calming strains of weed may also help to soothe the panicked feeling that naturally accompanies being unable to breathe.
Q: Does weed help asthma?
A: It does appear that weed can aid in the management of asthma symptoms, though more research is needed to discern the most effective and lowest-risk ways to do this.
The risks of using weed with asthma
The marijuana plant itself doesn’t appear to have an adverse effect on asthma unless you are allergic to it. However, smoking marijuana (or inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke) does have the potential to cause problems. Smoking weed ups your chances of developing lung cancer, and the smoke may aggravate asthma symptoms in many people, If your asthma symptoms appear to get worse when using cannabis, the potential benefits are probably not worth the risks, and you should discontinue use.
Q: Is weed bad for asthma?
A: As long as you are not allergic to cannabis, there is no evidence that marijuana on its own is bad for asthma. Smoking weed (or inhaling secondhand smoke) may contribute to asthma symptoms, but it appears to be the smoke itself that is the irritant – not the cannabis.
Smoking weed with asthma – is it good or bad?
Smoking weed when you have asthma tends to seem paradoxical. Any exposure to smoke has the potential to damage the lungs and aggravate asthma symptoms. Despite this, there are cases where the benefits gained from smoking cannabis are worth the risk.
How marijuana smoke affects asthma
If you have asthma and smoke weed, you may experience higher incidences of coughing, excessive build-up of phlegm, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, and you may be more susceptible to lung infections. The possibility does exist that irritation from smoking marijuana could prompt a life-threatening asthma attack. This risk is due to the irritation caused by smoke inhalation, not specifically because the smoke comes from cannabis.
Marijuana is usually smoked unfiltered and held in the lungs longer than cigarette smoke. This means that a significant amount of tar and toxins end up in the lungs. Smoke and other toxins can damage the lining of the airways and cause them to become inflamed. Heavy marijuana smoking has been linked to an increased risk of lung damage, lung cancer, bronchitis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Smoke combustion releases toxins and is bad for the lungs whether it comes from weed, cigarettes, or campfires. Being a marijuana smoker may also render you ineligible to receive a lung transplant, should your lung damage ever progress to that point.
Q: What happens if you smoke weed and have asthma?
A: It is possible that asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath will worsen if you smoke weed. However, smoking cannabis gives many people near-instant relief from bronchoconstriction, which can stop an asthma attack in its tracks.
Smoke combustion releases toxins and is bad for the lungs whether it comes from weed, cigarettes, or campfires.
Secondhand marijuana smoke and asthma
There have been documented cases of asthma symptoms being caused by cannabis allergy. If you are allergic to cannabis, it’s highly likely that exposure to plant particles or marijuana smoke in the air will induce asthma symptoms or attacks. Even if you are not allergic to weed, secondhand marijuana smoke is highly irritating to the lungs and could exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Vaping weed with asthma
Vaping cannabis could contribute to throat irritation and/or coughing, but overall, it appears more beneficial than harmful for those with asthma. Since the plant matter or cannabis oil is heated up but not combusted, vaping allows you to avoid inhaling all of the toxins and tar that you do when you smoke. If you have asthma and are new to vaping, it’s recommended that you start out with your vaporizer at a low-temperature setting. Opt for the best quality vaporizer you can get. A good filtration system and the ability to pull consistent hits are especially important when you are vaporizing weed to treat asthma.
Medical marijuana for asthma
Medical marijuana prescriptions for the treatment of asthma are not available at this time, though this could change as more research on cannabis and asthma is done. In California, Oklahoma and West Virginia, physicians do have the authority to write prescriptions for any medical condition they deem appropriate, and there are a growing number of states where marijuana may be purchased and used for recreational purposes.
Medical marijuana prescriptions for the treatment of asthma are not available at this time.
CBD and asthma
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive chemical found in weed that shows promise as a treatment for asthma. CBD is an anti-inflammatory and helps by dilating and opening up the airways. CBD is also an antispasmodic. During an asthma attack, the smooth muscles in the lungs and bronchioles contract and constrict, narrowing the air passages. CBD can help these muscles to relax, giving you more room to breathe, literally. Hemp-derived CBD cannot get you high and is legal in all 50 U.S. states, even those where cannabis is not. CBD is considered safe for use by children and even pets.
Treating asthma with CBD oil
CBD oil can be taken orally or vaporized. Taking a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue may be an effective way to administer it during an asthma attack. Smoking or vaporizing is still the fastest-acting option, but if you find it too irritating or it makes your symptoms worse, then CBD oil taken orally may be the next best thing.
CBD asthma inhaler – an exciting new treatment
A couple of companies are working to get CBD inhalers into the United States and Canadian markets. In the meantime, many people have chosen to substitute their medically prescribed asthma inhalers with vaporized CBD. This option does allow you to avoid chemicals used in medically prescribed inhalers such as corticosteroids, which can cause side effects including anxiety, depression and increased blood pressure. However, this may not work for all people and we do not recommend stopping any prescribed medication without first consulting your physician.
CBD Asthma Inhaler
THC and asthma
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in weed famous for getting you high, also dilates and opens up the airways, which may be able to reduce or inhibit coughing attacks. This effect usually lasts about an hour. THC has also been shown to help suppress the immune system, which could help counteract the auto-immune response that is believed to be a cause of asthma.
Does smoking weed cause asthma?
If you are allergic to cannabis, exposure to it could cause you to develop asthma. In those who are not allergic, it does not appear that weed causes asthma. However, smoking weed (or inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke) could potentially aggravate symptoms and prompt asthma attacks. There are a few other respiratory conditions that have similar symptoms to asthma that are also worsened by exposure to marijuana smoke.
Marijuana smokers (particularly those under age 45, though researchers don’t yet know why) are more likely to develop a life-threatening condition called bullae, in which large air sacs form in the lungs. This condition can cause shortness of breath and, if the sacs rupture, air leaking into the lung can cause it to collapse (a condition known as pneumothorax). Marijuana smokers can also contract lung infections from aspergillus, a mold that lives on the cannabis plant. This mold can cause pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Q: Can smoking weed cause asthma?
A: Unless you are allergic to cannabis, it does not appear that marijuana causes asthma. However, exposure to marijuana smoke does have the potential to exacerbate asthma symptoms, up to and including asthma attack, whether you are allergic to cannabis or not.
Could cannabis be the asthma treatment for you?
The potential drawbacks and risk factors of smoke inhalation do make treating asthma with cannabis a complex issue. However, there is a strong link between cannabis use and the improvement of asthma symptoms. It is likely that as more research is done, the medical marijuana community will figure out how to put cannabis’ positive effects on asthma to work.
Q: Can people with asthma smoke weed?
A: If you have asthma but are not allergic to weed, you may be able to tolerate smoking it. However, vaporizing is typically a more comfortable option for asthma patients who use cannabis.
Q: Does smoking weed affect asthma?
A: Smoking weed may aggravate asthma symptoms, including inducing asthma attacks. Cannabis has also been shown to reduce inflammation and relax the bronchial muscles, helping to open up constricted air passageways during an asthma attack.
Q: Can you get medical marijuana for asthma?
A: Asthma is not currently a qualifying condition for prescribed medical marijuana.
Marijuana shows potential as an unexpectedly effective treatment for asthma.
Can marijuana help treat asthma?
Changes in marijuana laws and the increased use of medicinal marijuana have led to questions about what conditions it can treat. Many people wonder whether marijuana can affect or treat asthma.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that occurs when the airways in the chest get narrower or become inflamed. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing.
There is no cure for asthma, so treatment involves managing the symptoms and preventing complications.
There is a growing interest in the use of medical marijuana to treat a range of health conditions, including asthma.
But people who use marijuana, or cannabis usually do so through smoking. What does this mean for a person with asthma? Is there any other way to use marijuana, and can it help reduce the symptoms of asthma?
Read on to find out more.
Share on Pinterest Marijuana contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have suggested that some of the components in marijuana may benefit people with asthma.
Medical marijuana can refer to the whole plant, or it can be an active ingredient of marijuana taken from the plant and turned into a medication.
It is important to note the difference between recreational and medicinal uses of marijuana.
For recreational purposes, many people smoke marijuana. But smoking can have a negative impact on lung health, especially for people with asthma.
Smoking cannabis can cause the same symptoms as smoking tobacco, even when people smoke cannabis alone, possibly because smoke from cannabis and tobacco have similar properties.
These effects can be particularly hazardous for people with asthma.
In vaporizing, or “vaping,” the user inhales the vapor of the active ingredients but not the smoke. The vaporizer may contain a liquid cannabis extract.
There is little research on the use of vaporizers for marijuana use. However, a 2013 study found that using a vaporizer was likely to be less hazardous to the lungs than smoking.
Researchers in a 2015 review caution, however, “Preliminary findings do not support the idea that vaporization is an improvement over smoking.”
Using medical marijuana in other ways might provide benefits for people with asthma.
- consuming marijuana or its extracts in foods or drinking a tea
- consuming the active ingredients in capsules
- applying topical preparations onto the skin
Marijuana contains a range of active substances, known as cannabinoids. These include CBD and various types of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is a psychoactive ingredient, but CBD is not. CBD does not have mind-altering properties.
CBD, THC, and some other substances in marijuana appear to have various health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties.
Some people use marijuana to treat chronic conditions that cause pain and inflammation, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Some countries have approved the use of medical marijuana for this purpose, but the United States has not.
Researchers have looked into whether people with other inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, can use marijuana safely.
Findings of an animal study published in 2015 suggested that CBD might benefit people with asthma, due to its anti-inflammatory action.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not yet approved the use of medical marijuana for asthma.
At this point, there is not enough evidence to ensure it can be safe and effective for asthma. However, it is possible that the anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects might reduce symptoms.
However, in June 2018, the FDA did approve the use of a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD) for the first time.
The FDA approved a drug called Epidiolex to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy that do not respond to other medications.
Research has found that THC can help suppress the immune system. This might help reduce symptoms that stem from autoimmune diseases, such as asthma. Since asthma is an allergy reaction, the immune system is over-reacting to something in the environment that is triggering the attack.
Studies have also suggested that one type of THC may have bronchodilatory properties, which means it could help make breathing easier for people with asthma.
However, it is often difficult to study the effect of marijuana and its components. This is because most people who use marijuana use the whole plant, and they smoke it regularly. This can make it hard to assess any positive effects on the lungs.
Using marijuana to treat asthma can involve some risks.
Studies have found that smoking marijuana can trigger an asthma attack. It may also increase the risk of both asthma and allergies.
Smoking marijuana during an asthma attack could further irritate the lungs, worsen coughing, and increase health risks.
As with any drug or medication, marijuana can have some side effects.
- changes in perception and mood
- reduced coordination
- difficulty thinking, reasoning, and remembering
Using marijuana without a doctor’s supervision increases the risk of these problems.
For people who begin smoking marijuana early, there appears to be a higher risk of asthma later in life. Another review discourages the use of marijuana for allergic asthma because of its potential to cause respiratory symptoms.
Complications of smoking
Smoking any substance, including marijuana, can irritate the lung tissue. Lung irritants can trigger or worsen asthma attacks in some people.
The immediate effects of smoking marijuana, tobacco, or a combination can include:
- increased sputum
- a chronic cough
- difficulty breathing
- a hoarse voice
- tightness in the chest
Anyone with asthma should avoid smoking any substance, including marijuana.
The long-term effects of smoking marijuana regularly include a higher risk of developing bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A review of studies published in Nature linked bullous lung disease with marijuana use.
Bullae are large air sacs in the lungs that can put pressure on the lungs and chest, making it more difficult to breathe. They can also rupture or pop, which can trigger a lung to collapse. A collapsed lung can be life-threatening if it does not receive immediate treatment.
It is unclear whether smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer. However, since marijuana smoke contains many cancer-causing chemicals similar to those in tobacco smoke, it is likely to contribute to the risk.
The American Lung Association warn the public that smoking marijuana can be a health risk. This may include second-hand marijuana smoking, too.
As one study concludes, “There is unequivocal evidence that habitual or regular marijuana smoking is not harmless … recreational use is not the same as medicinal use.”
Medicinal marijuana may help relieve asthma, but smoking is likely to make it worse.
Legal issues and regulation
The laws regarding marijuana and medical marijuana are continually developing. Check whether any form of marijuana is legal locally before obtaining or using it.
Some forms of medical marijuana, such as CBD oil may be legal, but there may be restrictions, or a person may need a prescription.
CBD oil and other marijuana-based products that do not have FDA approval are not regulated. This makes it difficult to know exactly what is in the product. The FDA do not approve marijuana for asthma.
Asthma is a condition that causes chronic inflammation in the airways. Research about the anti-inflammatory effects of marijuana is ongoing and often positive. In this article, we look at whether marijuana can be used to help reduce asthma symptoms. We also look at the possible risks, as smoking can worsen symptoms.