There is much talk in medical circles about the use of medical marijuana (or cannabis) for a variety of chronic illnesses, but could it also benefit those living with chronic lung disease?
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 are against it.
How could medical marijuana help those living with chronic lung diseases? 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).
However, there are alternatives to smoking. Many people who don’t already smoke but want to get the benefits of medical marijuana choose to ingest the product through edible items (such as cookies or brownies). Pulmonary hypertension patients should also be aware that the consumption of cannabis can elevate their heart rate.
Some people may find that medical marijuana offers temporary relief from some of the symptoms of lung disease, but as it also comes with the side effect of getting high, there is a legal, moral and safety dilemma for many.
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