Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a term which covers a range of respiratory issues. The “Chronic” bit indicates that it doesn't get any better, in fact it generally gets worse until the person dies. The pharmaceutical companies are still searching for an effective cure, in the mean time, sufferers are turning to medical marijuana for help.
Smoking marijuana is ineffective in this situation as smoke of any sort can irritate the lungs, although some medical users have used vaporizers as a means to inhale safely. Generally speaking, however, COPD is treated using either ingested cannabis (cannabutter) or cannabis oil, the latter of which is now legal in the UK. There are three main reasons why cannabis is a useful treatment for this condition.
Firstly cannabis has a bronchodilatory effect. In simple terms cannabis helps to stop the airway contracting inappropriately and therefore makes it physically easier for users to breathe.
Secondly cannabis has immunosuppressant effects. While the immune system is generally a great benefit to human health, there can be serious repercussions when it malfunctions and essentially goes into overdrive, reacting needlessly to imaginary threats. One common aspect of COPD is that the immune system in the lungs becomes hypersensitive and this can be calmed by the use of medical marijuana.
Finally, medical marijuana is known to have anti-inflammatory effects. COPD often leads to inflammation of the lungs and hence can be calmed through the use of medical marijuana.
At this point much of the support for the use of medical marijuana for treating COPD comes from anecdotal evidence from sufferers. There are, however, a small number of medical studies which support it. Part of the issue with achieving scientific validation (or otherwise) of the effects of cannabis on COPD is that in many countries even medical marijuana is still illegal. This can put researchers into a difficult situation.
Hopefully the growing acceptance of medical marijuana and its corollary cannabis oil will help to make it both more feasible and more desirable for researchers to investigate this brutal condition and thereby to help to bring help to thousands of long suffering patients.