Marijuana and Asthma in 2020 – Can Weed Help?
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A survey by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that 25 million Americans live with asthma . Asthma costs the American economy more than $80 billion in treatment , mortality, and lost work hours. Conventional medicine has not been able to eliminate the condition, and many of the people who have asthma resort to looking for natural ways of managing their conditions.
Some of the people who have asthma only experience mild signs that are easy to manage. There are other people whose asthma is more aggressive. These are usually people who seek alternative treatment methods to supplement their medicine for a more significant effect.
Marijuana has, in the recent past, gained currency as an alternative therapy option, and asthma is one of the diseases for which marijuana has shown some promise managing.
Does Weed Help Asthma?
The typical image most people conjure at the mention of marijuana is that of someone smoking a joint with smoke billowing all over their heads. Asthma would not go very well with smoking marijuana being a condition of the respiratory system.
The discordance between asthma and smoking doesn’t make it impossible to use marijuana for the management of asthma because there are other ways of taking marijuana that are safer than smoking.
We shall discuss those later, but first, let us talk about asthma.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a life-long, usually hereditary disorder of the respiratory system. Once you have been diagnosed with the condition, you have to manage it for the rest of your days. An asthmatic person typically realizes they have the disease in their childhood.
In childhood, boys are more prone to asthmatic attacks than girls. The tables turn in adult-onset asthma, where women are more susceptible to attacks than men. In adulthood, asthma usually manifests when a person is between 18 and 24 years. Under very rare occasions does asthma attack an adult who is above this age for the first time.
Asthmatic attacks come as a result of inflammation of the airways. When the airways get inflamed, they become constricted, and the constriction restrains the flow of air in and out of the affected person’s lungs.
There are many ways that irritants can be introduced into the airway, triggering an asthma attack, or exacerbating the problem. Some of these irritants are as follows: –
- Air pollution
- Allergens such as pollen, animal fur, dust
- Cigarette smoking
- Infections such as cold and flu
- Some people react to specific medication
- Strong emotions such as stress or excitement
When an asthmatic is exposed to these stimulants, their airways get inflamed. The apparent signs of an asthmatic attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness on the chest and chest pains
- Some asthmatics cough in the mornings and evenings even without necessarily experiencing a significant attack.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a person may get attacks several times every day, several times every week, and some people only get attacks if exposed to too much of the triggers that affect them.
The number of asthma cases in the United States has increased steadily since the 1960s. This rise in cases can be attributed to the general increase of allergens in the air. In the last ten years alone, these cases have increased by a steady 15% every year.
Asthma is irritating, frustrating, and limiting. However, it is a condition that you can easily put under control if you are careful about your environment, and you take your medicine as prescribed.
The pharmaceutical drugs used for the treatment of asthma contain steroids and immunomodulators, which, more often than not, have undesirable side effects. These side effects are one of the reasons why some asthmatics seek alternatives such as marijuana for relief.
Marijuana has gained currency as an alternative therapy option, and asthma is one of the diseases for which marijuana has shown some promise managing.
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Can Cannabis Treat Asthma?
Apart from the stressful time of Covid-19 going around, these are also the times of changing seasons. Most often when seasons are changing, those having problems with allergies, are suffering even more. Covid-19 is a virus that attacks the respiratory system. So, if you are a person who already has weak lungs, you really don’t want to worry about asthma attacks too. But does the idea of using marijuana to treat your lungs make sense? Smoking cannabis is normally the way people go, and when you suffer from a respiratory condition, it feels unlikely to add smoking marijuana to your treatment. Doctors are convinced though, that even smoking marijuana could benefit your lungs.
Asthma is a condition where your airways narrow and swells and produce extra mucus. This makes breathing difficult and triggers coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. All conditions you don´t want in this time of the coronavirus. Some might have it lightly and it doesn´t really interfere with daily tasks. Others are not so lucky and if not controlled, it could be life-threatening. Asthma cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled. Asthma also changes over time, so it is important to work with your doctor to have the best outcome.
Asthma is a very common chronic inflammatory disease and often is present since childhood. Traditionally asthma is treated with steroids to reduce inflammation. It dilates the bronchial passages and normalizes breathing. For more severe cases, a nebulizer is needed to change liquid into mist as the lungs absorb it better. There are two types of medications asthma patients use. One is for quick-relief, and the other one is for long-term control.
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms can be present all the time, or only after something like exercise. Some months in the year it could be worse. The symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Chest tightness or pain
Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
A wheezing sound when exhaling, especially in children.
Coughing and wheezing augmented by respiratory flu or cold virus
Some situations might flare Asthma up, like:
Exercise-induced asthma – It gets worse when the air is dry and cold
Occupational asthma – triggered by workplace irritants like chemicals, dust, and gases
Allergy-induced asthma – airborne substances like pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste, pets, etc.
As there is no cure for asthma as of yet, scientists and doctors are looking for the best possible treatment for asthma. Cannabis is, therefore, a possible way to go.
Can Cannabis Reduce Airway Inflammation?
Cannabis is something that can be inhaled in many different ways. You can use a water pipe, joint, or vaporizer to name a few. It delivers cannabinoids directly to the lungs. This makes it a viable way to treat asthma. Studies show that cannabis does not harm lung tissue. But inhaling the combustive by-products might offer some risks. Smoking is thus not the best way to treat lung disease. It is better to vape, or to use an inhaler for optimal results.
Both THC and CBD have been proving successful to treat asthma. Studies show that medical marijuana has a similar effect on the airways as some traditional asthma medication.
How THC Works for Asthma
THC is mostly known for its euphoric response due to its psychoactive properties. But THC acts quite similar to the endocannabinoids we have in our own body too. THC is known to effectively dilate airways in the lungs and inhibit coughing. Even when a person smokes marijuana, it dilates the airways. In comparison, cigarettes do exactly the opposite. Cigarettes constrict the airways.
When a person has an asthma attack, a chemical molecule, acetylcholine, normally responsible for maintaining muscle tone of the airways, also contributes to the contractions in asthma attacks. Traditional asthma medication blocks the molecule by preventing it to bind to the receptors. THC likewise does the same. It does not stop the molecule from binding, it prevents acetylcholine from being released. When THC is released through a vaporizer, it has almost immediate bronchial dilation effects without the risk of harmful smoke.
What about CBD?
CBD is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, it has very strong anti-inflammatory benefits. Furthermore, CBD helps to let you sleep better and lowers stress-levels tremendously. Using CBD daily in oils or tinctures, help the body to reduce inflammatory responses in the body. CBD is very good at reducing bronchial spasms. CBD is very safe to use with little to no side-effects.
As cannabis technology is improving at a rapid pace, patients with lung problems have more options to choose from. There is easy access to cannabinoid inhalers and nebulizers that eliminates the need to smoke weed as a treatment for asthma. Vaporizers and vape pens are also out there. Obviously more studies will follow, but as for now, cannabis is viable in treating asthma.
Apart from the stressful time of Covid-19 going around, these are also the times of changing seasons. Most often when seasons are changing, those having problems with allergies, are suffering even more. Covid-19 is a virus that attacks the respiratory system. So, if you are a person who already has weak lungs, you really don’t want to worry about asthma attacks too. But does