COPD and Cannabinoids


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult for a person to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD: chronic bronchitis (involves long-term cough with mucus), and emphysema (damage to the lungs over time).

Both of these forms cause less air flow both in and out of the airways due to the loss of elastic qualities or mucus clogging the airways. In chronic bronchitis, the bronchial tube walls become thick and inflamed. In emphysema, the walls between the alveoli (air sacs) are destroyed. Most people diagnosed with COPD have a combination of both conditions. In the United States, COPD is the third leading cause of death.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is caused by long-term exposure to particles (matter or gasses) that irritate and damage our respiratory system. COPD develops slowly and during the progression of the disease, symptoms get worse which causes even the most basic physical activities, such as walking or cooking, to become very difficult.

The main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, but non-smokers can also be diagnosed with COPD.  Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace, exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke or pollution, and frequent cooking with fire and poor ventilation can also put someone at risk of developing COPD. In very rare cases, nonsmokers who lack a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin can also develop emphysema.

Cannabinoids Effect on COPD

According to Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, Cannabis has been proven to help patients manage the pulmonary diseases by reducing inflammation in their airway which causes bronchodilation. Currently, there isn’t a cure for COPD, only treatment plans which help the person manage their symptoms and slow the progression.

When someone is diagnosed with COPD, they usually are prescribed a treatment plan which includes inhalers and nebulizers to decrease inflammation and open up the patient’s airways. In further stages of COPD, the patient may also be prescribed to be put on oxygen during exercise, and in more extreme cases, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Along with the diagnosis of COPD, there’s an increased risk of respiratory infections, heart problems, lung cancer, high blood pressure, and depression. Unfortunately, many of the medications associated with treating these additional health conditions can interfere with the treatment for COPD.