Medical Cannabis and Asthma: What You Should Know

It’s National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and the team here at Doctor Jane thought there was no better time to discuss the possible benefits and precautions associated with medical cannabis use by asthmatic individuals.

Medical cannabis treatments can offer much of the same relief to asthma patients as it does for those dealing with a range of other symptoms and illnesses--particularly when it comes to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties. Before we can explain why medical cannabis may benefit asthmatics, however, we need to discuss what asthma actually is and how it affects those that suffer from it.

What Is Asthma?

Personally, I have suffered from asthma since I was at least ten years old, although I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twelve. It has been something that affected almost every aspect of my life--from my ability to participate in team sports or enjoy outdoor activities in the spring or fall, to the inconvenience of having to take multiple prescription pills per day and having to carry an inhaler everywhere I go.

For those of you unfamiliar with asthma, it is a medical condition in which our airways uncontrollably narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus, making breathing difficult and often triggering coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Of course, asthma affects different people in different ways--for some, it’s a minor nuisance, but for others like myself it can be a major problem that interferes with everyday activities and can lead to life-threatening asthma attacks.

Unfortunately, asthma can't be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled--something I’ve experienced personally over the 21 years since I was first diagnosed. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, a whistling or wheezing sound during exhalation, and coughing or wheezing attacks that are triggered and worsened by upper respiratory viruses like colds and the flu.

The difference between an asthmatic airway and a non-asthmatic airway.

The difference between an asthmatic airway and a non-asthmatic airway.


Returning to the Spotlight

Interestingly, cannabis used to be a recommended solution for asthma--a somewhat counterintuitive solution for those that associate any inhaled substance with asthma triggers. Many of us with asthma have probably had the experience of trying to smoke--whether it’s tobacco, cannabis, cloves or anything else--and either having a bad experience or being chastised by friends and family about the recklessness of smoking anything when we suffer from asthma.

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In fact, cannabis was the substance of choice for medical professionals operating in and before the 1920s, often recommended in place of morphine and other more dangerous opioids for issues like coughing, throat pain, and asthma. In fact, evidence shows that asthmatic individuals often sought treatment with cannabis as early as 1200 B.C.

That said, the issue is, of course, more complicated than this and requires due diligence on behalf of any medical cannabis patient and their physician in terms of whether it is the right solution for them or how it will impact their overall health.

As Doctor Jane founder and registered cannabis physician Rick Liogier-Weyback, M.D. has discussed before, epochs like Prohibition and more recently the so-called “War on Drugs” have attached a great deal of stigma to the legitimate use of medical cannabis. What was once one of the most commonly-used solutions for a variety of concerns has become vilified, stigmatized and now is clawing its way back into relative acceptance. Advocates have long conducted research and shared information about cannabis’ versatility in an effort to return its healing capabilities to public popularity.

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Fortunately, the level of general understanding has skyrocketed in recent years, and though there is much work to be done, public appreciation for cannabis is finally closer to the general acceptance that it has been reaching toward for nearly a century.

Understanding Usability and Options

There are a variety of options that asthma sufferers should consider when thinking about medical cannabis treatment. There are a number of non-inhaled consumption options, for example, that can include edible forms, beverage additives, topical applications, and others that do not threaten body constitution in any known way. On the other hand, and far more popular statistically, is inhalation of medical cannabis via smoking or vaping.

While it is often the case that inhalation of any substance causes harm in the form of lung and throat irritation, use of medical cannabis may actually benefit those suffering from asthma-related issues in certain ways. Of course, remaining aware of the balance between positive and potentially negative outcomes is crucial when approaching such a treatment; keep in mind that consulting a doctor is always recommended for anyone considering use of an inhaled medication like medical cannabis, particularly those that suffer from conditions like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Whether inhalation of cannabis smoke is significantly harmful or not is still up for debate. A study published in 1985 showed that asthmatic cannabis users enjoyed increased lung function without damage common to cigarette smokers. It is still important to note that smoking cannabis can, unfortunately, bear end results fairly similar to smoking tobacco products. As such, it is fairly unwise for those dealing with asthma complications to engage in medical cannabis treatment in such a way as symptoms can worsen rather than improve.

Similarly, vaporizing medical cannabis may provide some of the same negative effects, although some research shows improvements over smoking, other findings show negligible or no difference. Still, vaping can provide more choice to those who are interested in either a dry or liquid form of medical cannabis.

Consumption through ingestion, however, delivers the beneficial results expected of medical cannabis without the potential downside of using inhaled methods. For asthma sufferers, these advantages may be plentiful; two of the frequent causes of pain for asthmatics, inflammation and muscle spasms, can be relieved through medical cannabis treatment. Furthermore, this potential relief can come without any of the mind-altering effects expected of cannabis’ other cannabinoid, THC, as CBD is often the only participating substance in these treatments.

Is Medical Cannabis Right For You?

Determining whether medical cannabis is an appropriate solution is dependent on a variety of factors that differ from person to person. While there are numerous possible benefits associated with treatment, considerations like consumption method and dosage are as important as with any other medical treatment, whether prescribed or over-the-counter.

Asthmatic patients dealing with symptoms like inflammation, coughing, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, headaches, and wheezing are encouraged to consult with Doctor Jane’s founder, Dr. Rick Weyback, or another licensed medical cannabis physician.

Today’s blog post is written by Paige F. MacGregor, Head of Marketing, Communications & Partnerships at Doctor Jane, and a medical cannabis patient with a background in Clinical Data Management. If you are considering cannabis treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the team here at Doctor Jane to schedule a consultation today.


About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation. www.DoctorJane.net