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Smoking Weed With Asthma: Risks and Benefits

  • Asthma is a chronic condition with no cure. However, it’s treatable with medications and an understanding of triggers.
  • While smoking may not be the best medical cannabis administration method for people living with asthma, there are plenty of other options for patients looking to reap the healing rewards of cannabis, such as edibles and tinctures.

If you’re considering medical marijuana for chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, or any other debilitating condition, you’re not alone. But if you have a chronic respiratory condition like asthma, you may be especially wary of smoking weed.

Interestingly, while health experts generally advise asthma patients against smoking cannabis, they also acknowledge cannabis as a bronchodilator—a compound that can reduce airway restriction and serve an antiinflammatory purpose. Even still, smoking can be irritating to some asthma patients, so it’s helpful to learn about the other administration methods available.

In today’s medical marijuana market, patients have nearly countless product options, so smoking isn’t the only way to find relief.

In this guide, we’re breaking down everything asthma patients should consider on their journeys with medical cannabis.

Asthma 101

First, let’s touch on asthma.

Here are a few quick facts about the condition:

  • Asthma is chronic. At present, there is no cure.
  • While asthma isn’t currently curable, it’s certainly treatable. There are various medications on the market to both treat and prevent asthma flares and attacks.
  • Asthma symptoms (and episodes of high-intensity symptoms, called asthma attacks) can be triggered by viral infections, pollen, exercise, cold air, and other environmental conditions.

People living with asthma have sensitive airways that are often inflamed—this inflammation can constrict airways and increase the work of breathing. Under severe inflammatory conditions, constricted airways can be very dangerous. Luckily, medications like asthma inhalers can treat this inflammation almost immediately and help patients restore normal breathing.

Asthma and Smoking Weed: Important Considerations

If you want to try cannabis for anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or another condition, you might think that an asthma diagnosis will hold you back from this all-natural healing path. But this isn’t necessarily true; let’s dive into a few facts asthma patients should consider.

Smoking Isn’t the Only Option

Most importantly, smoking isn’t the only option for administering medical marijuana. While the mainstream media has inseparably connected marijuana and smoking, today’s medical cannabis patients have a bevy of options—many cannabis patients don’t smoke at all.

While we’ll dive into these alternative methods in a later section, here are just a few to consider if you’re sensitive to smoke:

  • Cannabis edibles
  • Liquid products like tinctures and oils
  • Topical products
  • Vaping (though we’ll touch on some limitations of vaping later)

Engaging with Providers Is Essential

If you have asthma, you’ve likely discussed your condition with a healthcare provider (especially if you’re using prescription interventions like inhalers).

When you start your journey with medical cannabis, conversations with a provider will be just as essential. In most states (including Louisiana), you’ll need a recommendation from a healthcare provider to get access to a dispensary in the first place.

Cannabis-informed healthcare providers can help you:

  • Create a personalized medical marijuana treatment plan that considers all of your existing health conditions
  • Choose the right administration method, dose, strain, and product for your needs
  • Adjust your treatment plan as your health goals shift
  • Offer advice and answer questions about medical cannabis, its interactions with other medications, and its long-term health benefits

When you visit a medical marijuana doctor, be sure to let them know about your asthma—they’ll consider this when they create your treatment plan and help you find the best possible course.

Understand Your Triggers

Asthma symptoms and attacks can be triggered by a variety of stimuli, including smoke and secondhand smoke.

But this isn’t true in every case. For some patients, smoke exposure may not trigger an asthma attack.

Approaching medical cannabis treatment with an asthma diagnosis requires an in-depth understanding of your personal triggers—the environmental conditions that cause an asthma attack. If you’re not sure what your triggers are, consider starting a symptom journal to log asthma attacks or symptoms alongside potentially triggering conditions.

Risks Associated with Smoking Weed with Asthma

Most research about the relationship between smoking and asthma focuses on cigarette smoking.

However, there are basic similarities between smoking weed and smoking tobacco: 

  • Both rely on combustion (burning the smokable product to create smoke)
  • Both require inhalation (i.e., introducing smoke to your airway)
  • Both are distinct from vaping (heating a smokable product enough to produce water vapor instead of combusted smoke)

The main asthma risk associated with smoking is inflammation—both excessive heat and smoke can inflame and constrict the airway. With restricted airways, patients could struggle to breathe or experience an asthma attack.

Benefits of Smoking Weed with Asthma

However, asthma and allergy experts have identified a potential benefit of smoking weed: the inherent anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis could decrease inflammation in the airway. Additionally, for individuals with asthma attacks brought on by stress or panic attacks, the inhalation of weed and the subsequent parasympathetic state it causes may help reduce asthma symptoms.

Even still, the risks associated with smoke exposure generally outweigh the benefits of reduced inflammation. Luckily, asthma patients looking to leverage the benefits of medical cannabis have other options for introducing it into their system.

Alternatives for Medical Marijuana Patients with Asthma

Let’s touch on some alternatives to smoking that could prove helpful for medical cannabis patients with asthma—the administration methods that don’t require smoke exposure and its associated risks.

Vaping

While it may not be the best choice for people living with asthma, vaping is one possible administration method if you’re looking for a smoking alternative.

While smoking relies upon combustion (i.e., burning the cannabis flower), vaping (in theory) only heats the plant matter or oil up enough to create water vapor. That said, vaporizers can also heat (and potentially combust) other non-cannabis ingredients in your vape cartridge. This could cause just as much irritation as smoking, if not more so, given the introduction of non-plant chemicals into the lungs.

If you’re highly sensitive to smoke, vaping likely isn’t the right choice for you. However, if you’re generally not triggered by smoke, vaping could be a discreet, simple administration method that works for you.

Topical Solutions

For patients looking to use medical marijuana for chronic pain, topical products have a few key advantages:

  • Patients apply them to their skin, so there’s no ingestion or inhalation required.
  • Topicals show exceptional effectiveness in treating acute pain and soreness.
  • Topicals are typically CBD-based, so there’s no risk of intoxication.

For patients looking to avoid smoking, prevent intoxication and treat chronic pain in specific areas, topicals are a highly viable alternative to smoking that could offer significant relief.

Edibles

Cannabis edibles are some of the most sought-after products at dispensaries and pharmacies: and, since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, you’ve likely seen increased availability of CBD-based edibles.

Common edible products include:

  • Gummies and candies
  • Beverages
  • Baked goods like cookies and brownies

Edibles are typically made with cannabis oils; these oils can be extracted from a wide variety of strains of cannabis, so people looking to find their perfect, smoke-free strain have almost as many options as patients who choose to smoke.

Tinctures and Oils

Speaking of oils, liquid products are yet another medical cannabis form that could work wonders for asthma patients.

There are two main liquid products you’re likely to find in a dispensary:

  • Tinctures: Tinctures are alcohol-based extractions. By combining cannabis flowers with an alcohol base, manufacturers can draw cannabinoids and other compounds out of the solid and dissolve them into the liquid alcohol base.
  • Oils: Like tinctures, oils are cannabinoid extractions, but they’re fat-based instead of alcohol-based. They’re manufactured similarly.

Patients can stir tinctures or oils into a beverage, mix them with food, or simply place a few drops under their tongue to start feeling the effects. These liquid products are an excellent option for people looking to use medical cannabis without smoking.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Patients with Quality Cannabis Care

If you have asthma, smoking may not be a practical choice for you. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the health benefits of medical marijuana. A cannabis-informed healthcare provider can help you curate a one-of-a-kind regimen that works for you—and that’s where TeleLeaf comes in.

We connect patients like you with medical cannabis doctors who can provide recommendations and help you get your medical card—all via telehealth. When you need medical cannabis support, our network of providers is here to provide open-minded, convenient, and high-quality care.

Ready to start your journey with medical marijuana? Schedule an appointment with a TeleLeaf provider today.


Sources: 

Asthma and Allergy Network. Cannabis (Marijuana) Use and Its Impact on Asthma and Allergies
https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/news/cannabis-marijuana-use-and-its-impact-on-asthma-and-allergies/

National Institutes of Health. What Is Asthma?
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/asthma

American Lung Association. The Health Effects of Smoking with Asthma
https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/learn-about-asthma/what-causes-asthma/smoking-with-asthma

Medical News Today. CBD Skin Cream: How to Use and Best Options
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/cbd-skin-cream

The Brookings Institution. The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization, and the Status of CBD: An Explainer
https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/

National Institutes of Health. Medical Cannabis in Asthmatic Patients
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32286026/

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