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6 Ways Cannabis Use can Benefit Patients with COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a collection of diseases that affect the respiratory system. Often mistaken as a normal occurrence when people grow older, COPD usually ends up untreated until the damage has been done. To make matters worse, research has shown that COPD in its late stages can greatly increase the chance of other serious medical problems such as heart disease and lung cancer.

Treating COPD can be a very expensive process, especially during the later stages of the disease. Aside from using different types of medication to control a COPD flareup, patients also have to take "maintenance drugs" to prevent further instances of flareups from happening. In addition to being expensive, the constant intake of medicine can put a strain on the kidneys or even cause serious side effects.

Patients with COPD don't usually get to choose their medication. However, scientific studies and recent changes in certain state laws have given COPD patients more access to something that can greatly help with managing their disease: cannabis.

Once a highly controversial drug, cannabis has seen a surge in popularity, thanks to anecdotes that highlight the drug's various medical benefits. Cannabis comes from the cannabis plant and it can be consumed in a variety of ways, like by mixing cannabis oil in drinks and recipes. Smoking cannabis leaves can cause further respiratory irritations, but cannabis oil is deemed safe for regular consumption.

Most people associate cannabis with the sight of people getting "high" after consuming the drug, but there's actually more to the versatile drug than this image. Cannabinoids – the special compounds found in the plant – actually cause different effects that can greatly benefit patients with COPD. There are dozens of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but the two that stand out in particular are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Understanding the different signs and symptoms of COPD and becoming familiar with the effects of cannabinoids on the human body are both crucial to figuring out why cannabis can greatly help patients suffering from the disease. Here are a few common problems that COPD patients have to deal with, and how consuming cannabis can help in these situations.

1. Ease of Breathing

It's common for patients with COPD to experience constant shortness of breath. Aside from causing a lot of discomfort, breathlessness can lead to hypoventilation with potentially life-threatening consequences. The shortness of breath is caused by the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the bronchial passage. Because cannabinoids can act as an effective anti-inflammatory drug, consuming cannabis (ideally as a vapor for faster delivery) can open up the airways and provide relief.

2. Reduce Frequent Coughing

Irritations in the respiratory system can cause incessant coughing which, in turn, can cause chest pain. In most cases, coughing is also accompanied by phlegm. Persistent coughing can disrupt the routine of a patient suffering from COPD because it's more difficult to rest or sleep with an irritated throat. Excessive coughing can also cause nasal veins to rupture. Studies have shown that cannabinoids have analgesic properties, which, combined with their anti-inflammatory properties, can lessen throat irritation and prevent coughing.

3. Relief from Throat Infections

COPD flareups are often linked to infections in the lung, which can either be bacterial or viral in nature. Bacteria or viruses are often airborne and are acquired when staying near other infected people. Unfortunately, further intake of antibiotics on top of existing COPD medication can have a serious effect on the liver and kidneys. Fortunately, consuming cannabis, which has also been documented to have antibiotic properties, does not have this side effect. In fact, marijuana is also good for treating the kidneys.

Consume Cannabis As Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle

4. Better Blood Circulation

Although COPD occurs in the respiratory system, it still has a big effect on the heart and blood vessels. Because the respiratory system has a difficult time providing oxygen during a flareup, the heart tries to compensate by circulating more blood to and from the lungs. This increase in blood pressure is called pulmonary hypertension, and it can increase the patient’s risk for heart failure. Cannabinoids act as vasodilators, causing blood vessels to expand and improving circulation to reduce the effects of hypertension.

5. Improved Energy Levels

Patients with COPD frequently suffer from fatigue and dizziness. Respiratory issues can deprive the body of oxygen, thus preventing it from producing energy. Difficulty in sleeping can also be a contributing factor since coughing and breathlessness can interrupt sleep. A patient with COPD can consume certain strains of cannabis (preferably those with high amounts of THC) to increase their energy levels and to keep them focused throughout the day.

6. Increased Appetite

Patients with COPD often lack the energy to eat, which can further aggravate their disease. Because of poor appetite, the body won't get the nutrients it needs in order to recover. Furthermore, if a patient with COPD fails to eat a meal, they might not be able to take certain medications that require a full stomach. One of the most well-known effects of consuming cannabis is the sudden urge to eat, which is commonly known as "the munchies". Furthermore, cannabinoids also help speed up a person's metabolism, making the patient more likely to eat regularly.

While it is still too early to say that patients with COPD should completely switch their medication for cannabis, anything that could help make COPD more manageable for them is a lot better than just letting them bear the various struggles they have to deal with every day. Not everyone is on board with the thought of using cannabis as a standard option for COPD patients. However, continuous research on the medical benefits of cannabis should hopefully pave the way for the medical industry to fully embrace it as a viable option and a versatile drug.

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