Emphysema and Cannabis

Emphysema is a medical condition that is characterised by a narrowing of the airways and the breakdown of lung tissue. As the disease progresses it will eventually lead to shortness of breath, and in some cases death. As it becomes harder to breath your levels of CO2 will continue to rise resulting in poor memory, loss of motor control and convulsions. Some common causes of emphysema or COPD are smoking, pollution and in some more rare cases genetics can play a role as well. The signs and symptoms of emphysema are typically easy to notice both for the patient and any loved ones. Shortness of breath after performing simple tasks such as getting out of bed. Eventually coughing will set in along with a high pitched wheeze that may be difficult to hear. In some cases patients will develop a “barrel chest”. This is a result of the walls of the thoracic cavity widening in an attempt to make it easier to breath.

Emphysema can take not only a physical toll but an emotional one as well. As you are unable to take in effective amounts of oxygen the chemistry of the brain changes resulting in different ways of thinking and feeling that may not be typical of the patient. On top of the depression that comes with a serious medical diagnosis chemical changes in the brain can make the issue much worse.

Emphysema is treated with drugs known as bronchodilators. They work by doing just what the name implies, they open the bronchial tubes in the lungs. While these medications can be helpful they do come with a hefty list of side effects and dangers. Some of the common side effects are nervousness, thyrotoxicosis,tachycardia, subaortic stenosis and high blood pressure. In cases where the patient may not feel as if the medication is not working they may be inclined to take more than is recommended. As a result muscle tremors, headache, dizziness or gastric irritation can occur. In even higher doses it can cause heart attack and death.

With medical cannabis it may be hard for the patient to administer the medication through the usual means. The best method for them is by consuming the cannabis through edibles or oils. THC as an effect on human airways much like a bronchodilator with far less side effects or complications. In a paper published in 2000 they stated “We think that by targeting cannabinoid receptors in the upper airways we can control coughs in a number of conditions…That’s important because most treatments currently available basically act on the brain cough center, a small region of the brain that is the target for codeine and similar drugs.” Piomelli-2000.

In the end while it may be hard for patients to self administer there are a lot of options and ways that someone could use medical cannabis to treat their condition. With nearly no side effects and very little in the way of long term effects cannabis is looking more and more like the great medication that it is