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A Study Revealed that 50% of its Asthma Patients Smoke Cannabis

February 25, 2021 09:59 am ET
A Study Revealed that 50% of its Asthma Patients Smoke Cannabis

Asthma can cause permanent lung damage due to persistent coughing and wheezing- which is exactly why patients should take preventative measures to minimize coughing and wheezing. A recently published study, which includes a survey, found that a surprising amount of asthma patients smoke cannabis, despite the fact that it may induce coughing. The cannabinoids from cannabis can be beneficial for asthma patients but should be consumed without being smoked. 

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition where pulmonary airways are narrowed, often swollen, and produce extra mucus. This condition can make breathing challenging while triggering coughing as well as wheezing. Asthma can either be a minor nuisance or a major interference depending on the severity of the condition. Much like many other conditions, asthma can not be cured- which means relief depends on how well symptoms can be treated. Individuals with asthma can sooner present with inflamed and swollen lungs compared to those without asthma. 

Symptoms:

The symptoms of asthma depend on the person as well as on the severity of the condition. Symptoms of asthma generally include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing when exhaling 
  • Difficulty sleeping due to other symptoms. 
  • Coughing. 

What Triggers Asthma?

Asthma is often brought on by irritants and allergens which trigger the condition but is ultimately dependent on the person. The irritants and allergens which may trigger asthma include airborne allergens such as pollen, dust minutes, mold spores, respiratory infections, physical activity, cold air, air pollutants such as smoke, medications such as beta-blockers and aspirin, strong emotions such as stress, sulfites and preservatives added to certain foods such as wine and processed potatoes as well as gastroesophageal reflux disease. 

What Does The Study Have to Say?

The study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, recruited participants who have asthma and who have consumed cannabis. Of the participants which meet that criteria, they found that about half had reported smoking cannabis, while a third had reported vaping it. Considering that asthma has to do with a disease mostly impacting the lungs, it is surprising that so many asthma patients chose to consume cannabis through inhalation (smoking and vaping). 

Dr. Joanna Zeiger, the principal investigator in the study, explained that “we also found that people with asthma are not routinely being asked or advised by their physician about cannabis and how they are consuming it”. It was found that only 40% of the participants had reportedly inquired with their physician about cannabis use. Dr. William Silvers stated that “in order to completely manage their asthma patients, allergists should increase their knowledge about cannabis and inquire about cannabis use including all types of cannabinoid, route of use, the reason for use and adverse effects” as well as that “efforts should be made to reduce smoking of cannabis” and that recommendations should be made on “safer routes such as edibles and sublingual tinctures”. 

Despite the fact that asthma patients may be putting their lungs through unnecessary stress when smoking cannabis, positive effects of cannabis use were reported. These positive effects can be seen as the benefits of cannabis for asthma patients and include reduced pain and improved sleep. However, smoking cannabis led to coughing, which is something asthma patients should be actively avoiding, especially if it can be prevented. The survey, or study, concluded by stating that they “look forward to future studies of larger, more diverse cohorts to better explore more deeply the effect of cannabis use on asthma and other allergic disorders”. 

Is Smoking Cannabis a Good Idea With A Condition Like Asthma?

Consuming cannabis is a good idea to benefit from the therapeutic properties of cannabis but it is best to avoid doing so by means of smoking- since this condition is considered a lung disease. The cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, can be beneficial for patients by offering, for example, anti-inflammatory properties, pain alleviation as well as a reduction in swelling. Certain cannabinoids have also been shown to act as bronchodilators (an agent to open airways) but considering the risk to the lungs when smoking, it would be best to avoid smoking cannabis in the first place. Instead of smoking cannabis, patients can benefit from cannabis by consuming it through an alternative method.

Professionals, including Dr. Joanna Zeiger from the Allergy & Asthma Network, state that they do not recommend that asthma patients smoke cannabis because “it is not a safe way to consume cannabis with this condition”. Zeiger suggests that patients first consult their physicians in order to establish the “why” and “how” of consuming cannabis to treat the condition. 

Alternatives to Smoking Cannabis for Asthma Patients

  • Pills and Capsules
  • Edibles
  • Dissolvable Tablets
  • Transdermal Patches
  • Tinctures
  • Topicals and Ointments

If you are interested in the bioavailability of these different methods of consumption, check out this article for guidance.

When consuming cannabis for chronic conditions, it is of the utmost importance that individuals prioritize safety and health. This is why individuals with asthma will be better off consuming cannabis in one of the alternative forms mentioned above. Consuming cannabis for asthma should be considered, not dismissed, as cannabis can act as a powerful anti-inflammatory for this condition which is characterized by inflammation of the lungs. 

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