Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
Doctors need to speak to patients with asthma about their cannabis use and its possible effects, suggests a new U.S. study that found half of the participants smoked weed despite having uncontrolled asthma.
Published last month in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the survey reflects input from 489 people 18 and older who have allergy/asthma, completed the anonymous, online survey, conducted in collaboration with Allergy & Asthma Network, and are current cannabis consumers. Participants were asked about cannabis knowledge, attitudes and patterns of use, according to a statement from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Of the cannabis-using participants, 53.4 per cent smoked weed while 35.2 per cent vaped it. In all, 58 per cent of the cannabis users — 33 per cent used THC, 19.3 per cent used CBD and 47.7 per cent used both — reported current asthma, with 39.2 per cent being uncontrolled.
Joanna Zeiger, Ph.D., the study’s principal investigator, says she was surprised that more than half of patients currently with asthma smoke cannabis. But Zeiger may have been even more surprised that the percentage does fall appreciably, remaining at about half, for those who report having uncontrolled asthma.
Additionally, about a third of respondents reported they vape weed. Smoking and vaping are both “inhalation routes likely to affect one’s lungs,” the college notes.
Why would people with asthma smoke or vape cannabis? Survey findings indicate that 65.9 per cent of the group said they did so for medical or medical/recreational purposes.
Patients who consumed cannabis reported positive effects — such as reduced pain, calm and improved sleep — significantly more often than adverse effects, including cough, increased appetite and anxiety, according to the college.
But responses did reveal concerns, including that 19.3 per cent of weed-using respondents “reported coughing from cannabis, which was significantly related to smoking the cannabis,” the statement adds.
“Short-term use of cannabis can act as a bronchodilator or cause coughing or wheezing, whereas long-term use could cause increased respiratory symptoms,” notes the study. “Particularly detrimental in asthmatics, cannabis smoking’s effect on the lungs may be similar to that of tobacco smoking and persistent cannabis smoking may lead to peripheral airway resistance.”
Additionally, “cannabis use among allergic individuals may increase risk for cannabis allergy,” the study states. Of the non-cannabis users taking part in the poll, 2.5 per cent were allergic to weed.
Despite more U.S. states looking to legalize medicinal or recreational marijuana, doctors are not routinely asking or advising patients “about cannabis and how they are consuming it,” Zeiger reports in the statement.