Medical Cannabis and COPD: How it Helps

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Sixteen million Americans are suffering with a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The Center for Disease Control stating that millions more may be suffering without a formal diagnosis. The COPD Foundation defines COPD as: “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases. including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.” These lung diseases are, sadly, the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States. There is no cure for COPD and for many patients finding a successful treatment plan can be difficult, as traditional treatments are limited to only addressing the symptoms and often do not address the progression of the disease itself. With many of the medications carrying high risks of unpleasant side effects, it’s no surprise that more and more patients are considering alternative therapies and treatment plants. Fortunately, there is an emerging wave of research that suggests that medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, can offer substantial relief for the debilitating symptoms of COPD when administered responsibly.

COPD advances itself in stages. The first stage is often overlooked and not taken seriously since the symptoms closely mimic those of a common cold or flu. However, this is the stage where COPD is the most treatable and addressing it during the early stage can prevent it getting worse and progressing to more serious stages. The following symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, increase of mucus production, and an ongoing cough are a cause to see a doctor who can perform a lung function test and determine the seriousness of the symptoms and if any lung damage has occured. Once COPD reaches its later stages it can become very difficult to accomplish basic daily tasks without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

It is important for people with COPD to avoid possible triggers and to attempt to control their environment in such a way so as to not trigger a sudden reduction of lung narrowing. Some of the triggers that should be avoided include exposure to air pollution, dust, cold air, perfumes or scented cosmetics, pet dander, pollen, chemical cleaning solutions such as bleach or ammonia, and smoke from any source- yes, including from smoking medical cannabis. When an attack is triggered, corticosteroid and inhalers are often prescribed to temporarily open the airways along with pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories, which work to dilate the respiratory airways and momentarily relieve inflammation. The problem with these medications is that not only are they expensive when used over time, but they are associated with many negative side effects including infections, blood sugar imbalance, and weight gain.

Fortunately, recent medical developments have found that show medical cannabis is efficient in treating respiratory illnesses due to its anti-inflammatory properties! This is due to the beneficial chemical compounds in medical cannabis known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have been observed to aid the human body in various ways, including pain relief, reducing phlegm, promoting sleep, and regulating the immune system by supporting the body’s own endocannabinoid system. Two of the most known chemical compounds in cannabis, THC and CBD, have been observed in clinical studies interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors in resulting in an increase of airway inflammation and an increase in asthmatic and allergic inflammation as well. In another surprising study, Canadian researchers found that when comparing both cannabis smokers and tobacco smokers, the smokers who used only cannabis did not show an increased risk of any inflammatory lung disease. Those who smoked tobacco only or both tobacco and cannabis did show greater rates of inflammatory lung disease.

Regardless of the potential benefits of the compounds in medical cannabis, the fact remains that smoking is inherently dangerous to respiratory health. Perhaps because patients with COPD are particularly sensitive to irritants and any possible contaminants present when smoking cannabis, the method of administration of medical cannabis is important for this particular group. To eliminate any potential irritants present in smoke, patients with COPD are encouraged to administer medical cannabis through the following alternative methods:

One of the  many benefits of medical cannabis in comparison to other conventional treatments for COPD is its flexibility and its various routes of administration. However, not every administration route is correct for every patient. A person’s health history needs to be taken into concern along with consideration for any medications he or she may currently be taking before a medical cannabis protocol can begin. If you or a loved one is suffering with the symptoms of COPD and are considering a safer alternative from the pharmaceutical approach to treatment, it is advised that you speak with a qualified medical cannabis practitioner and receive a personalized treatment plan with accurate dosing instructions. Although COPD can at times seem too great to overcome, researchers are constantly making new breakthroughs in the field of medical cannabis. Until scientists are able to find a cure, patients suffering from COPD can take solace in the fact that medical cannabis is available as a safe, natural, way to support their health and reduce their pain and inflammation without the side effects of pharmaceutical medicines.


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