By Miguel Ordoñez

Asthmatics, of course, are very familiar with the plight of constricted lungs. Dizziness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and similar sensations are common experiences, and asthma attacks can be dangerous if you're not careful.

Along with all that, if you’re an asthmatic who enjoys smoking marijuana, life can be a bit more complicated. You’re torn between enjoying your beloved herb and avoiding the aggravation you may put your lungs through. It's nice to not have to deal with smoke or vapor in your lungs, but the relief that can come with sparking up makes it quite a tempting prospect.

That then begs the question: can you use medical marijuana as an asthmatic? Will it help your condition or will it only make it worse? This article should answer these questions.

What is Asthma and What Causes It?

You know that asthma causes difficulty in breathing and that whistling, wheezing sound every time you inhale. But what exactly happens during an attack?

Here’s an overview, and it’s not pretty.

To start, the airways in your lungs narrow and swell. In some cases, mucus may develop in your respiratory system as well. Some people may deal with it fine and deem it as a minor nuisance. For others, however, a worst-case scenario can often turn fatal.

The next logical question to ask would be, “Am I at risk for asthma?” Part of it is hereditary, and if you have close kin who are asthmatic, there’s a good chance that you are, too. Another key marker, of course, would be if you happen to suffer from allergies, as they're often comorbid with asthma.

Then you should also note certain lifestyle factors like being overweight, chain-smoking cigarettes, as well as exposure to pollutants like second-hand cigarette smoke and other hazardous chemicals.

Now, what are the causes of asthma? Several external factors can trigger an attack, like airborne allergens, certain food additives, even the cold air. You also have medical conditions that are simple as the common cold, to something as complex as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (or simply known as GERD) where your stomach acids travel up to your throat.

Medications like beta-blockers, ibuprofen, and aspirin may also cause asthma. Along with that, experiencing stress and other strong negative emotions are known precursors to asthma attacks.

What is Asthma and What Causes It?

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma attacks will vary from one person to another. Some people would have frequent attacks the moment they’re exposed to one of these triggers, but others would only experience one during a strenuous exercise, for example, or an intense emotional episode.

Regardless, the symptoms will look alike regardless of which asthmatic is experiencing them. You know you’re having a full-blown asthma attack if you’re experiencing the following:

  • Wheezing during every exhale. You’ll particularly see this in children, and it is quite a painful sound to hear.
  • Shortness of breath, as if you just ran a full marathon.
  • Hard, dry coughing worsened by wheezing. These are the ones commonly caused by a virus like the flu.
  • Interrupted sleep cycles because of breathing troubles.

As we mentioned earlier, asthma attacks may turn deadly if poorly attended to. You know your condition is getting worse by the minute if you continue to struggle even after a few puffs from a quick-relief inhaler. A peak flow meter would also be a good gauge of the airflow in your lungs.

So, if you continue to manifest the primary symptoms and the peak flow meter isn’t showing encouraging results, that’s the time to seek professional help.

How Does Cannabis Affect Asthmatic Patients?

While there are now various ways to consume cannabis in this day and age of legalization, smoking is still the preferred method by many. And the reality is, many herb-lovers are still unable to pause the habit, despite their existing condition.

So to provide answers to lingering questions and debates, science finally intervened. In April, a group of experts conducted research[1] on three asthmatic patients treated with medical cannabis.

The study’s participants reported an improvement in their condition, so researchers decided to delve into their data. First, it showed cannabis’ bronchodilator effect, in which cannabis essentially relaxed the muscles in the lungs to widen the airways. They also noticed the cannabinoids seemed to have a soothing effect on the lungs.

However, there’s still that other factor of having smoke enter the lungs, which may also cause airway irritation. It may also lead to the onset of chronic bronchitis if done in excess, although that doesn't usually happen.

How Does Cannabis Affect Asthmatic Patients?

Should You Smoke Medical Marijuana For Asthma?

Now that we've gone through and discussed some of the main benefits, we’ll now focus on the potential long-term risks of smoking with asthma:

  • Large fluid-filled sacs otherwise known as bullae[2] may easily develop in your lungs if you smoke cannabis. Considering the fact you're already dealing with asthma, we can imagine this is the last problem you'd want to deal with.
  • Over time, the bullae may develop into pneumothorax[3], otherwise known as a collapsed lung, which is a life-threatening condition.

The short-term risks aren’t too pretty, either. They could easily aggravate your asthmatic symptoms and make your daily experience a lot more miserable. These are what you’ll likely experience if you aren't careful with your smoking habit:

  • Wheezing while exhaling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Development of phlegm
  • Worsened coughing
  • Lung infections

Other Forms of Cannabis For Asthma

So, with smoking definitely out of the list of options, are there other ways to consume cannabis to possibly alleviate asthma symptoms? Thankfully, as it turns out, there are quite a few.

Here are a few other methods you can try out:

  • Vaping

You’ve probably heard about the comparisons between vaping and smoking, and you likely have your preference. But if we’re talking about what the “healthier” option is for those with asthma, it will all come down to the physical and chemical changes happening with the bud when you vape or smoke it.

See, with vaping, the device gets the cannabis just hot enough to release the compounds within. That heat activates both the cannabinoids and terpenes present in the plant and releases them in vapor form, which you subsequently inhale.

Smoking, on the other hand, burns the plant material, and therefore makes it carcinogenic (meaning it can potentially cause cancer if consumed in large enough amounts). Furthermore, according to the American Lung Association[4], cannabis smoke may release more tar compared to tobacco.

If you really need to get your dose of cannabis, vaping is one of your best bets outside of cannabis oil, tinctures, and edibles. It may not be 100% safe, but it is definitely the better option compared to smoking, especially if you’re dealing with asthma.

  • Inhaler

Thanks to legalization, medical experts have come up with advancements in their respective fields to highlight and accommodate the benefits that cannabis brings. Nowadays, the asthmatic’s trusty old friend, the inhaler, can actually be used as a reliable apparatus for consumption.

Cannabis inhalers are similar to vaporizers in their use of vapors instead of smoke. The main difference, however, is that with this one, you get more precise doses.

The cannabinoid enters the lungs through a propellant, much like how a usual inhaler works. And as we mentioned, these inhalers give your precise doses. You’re getting the same amount every single puff, which means you’re not consuming too much and leaving your body compromised in any way, shape, or form. These inhalers are usually THC-dominant, too, so make sure you look at the tags carefully if you need one with CBD or other cannabinoids in significant numbers.

The best part about cannabis inhalers, along with all that, is the fact they're very inconspicuous. You can easily slip it into your pocket and take a few puffs wherever you please. Even if somebody sees you, it will only look like you’re puffing through an inhaler for your asthma. Imagine having that kind of freedom everywhere you go!


Traditional Asthma Treatments vs. Cannabis

Whichever treatment option your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of the condition. Traditional treatment methods may come in the form of prescribed medications and breathing exercises, but the quick-relief inhaler is the usual go-to option.

But, with the definite possibility of infusing THC into the inhalers, asthma sufferers can very well enjoy the best of both worlds of instant and longer-term relief from the debilitating disease that unfortunately has no real cure yet.

There are definitely more studies that need to be done about the relationship between cannabis and asthma. But let’s be real: cannabis has been noted to have calming, relaxing effects on many users, and those could serve any asthmatic well. Smoking the herb definitely is out of the question, but alternative consumption methods are definitely worth looking at.

Medical DisclaimerInformation listed, referenced or linked to on this website is for general educational purposes only and does not provide professional medical or legal advice.

Royal Queen Seeds does not condone, advocate or promote licit or illicit drug use. Royal Queen Seeds Cannot be held responsible for material from references on our pages or on pages to which we provide links, which condone, advocate or promote licit or illicit drug use or illegal activities. Please consult your Doctor/Health care Practitioner before using any products/methods listed, referenced or linked to on this website.

External Resources:
  1. Medical Cannabis in Asthmatic Patients - PubMed
  2. Bullae: Pictures, Treatment, Symptoms, and More
  3. Pneumothorax (Collapsed Lung): Types, Symptoms, and Risks
  4. Marijuana and Lung Health | American Lung Association
  5. Encyclopédie Larousse en ligne - bulle pulmonaire
  6. Pathologies - Réagir en cas d'urgence : Pneumothorax | | Assuré
  7. Catalogue en ligne OFDT Documentation
  8. Bulla. Diccionario médico. Clínica Universidad de Navarra.
  9. Neumotórax: Síntomas, diagnóstico y tratamiento. Clínica Universidad de Navarra
  10. Lungenzysten: einfaches Bild – viele Ursachen
  11. Pneumothorax – Wikipedia
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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