There have been new ways of consuming cannabis for quite some time now. We are starting to wonder if the respiratory health concerns surrounding cannabis are really fair and if cannabis could even be a useful contribution to a healthy set of lungs.
When people consider cannabis consumption we often associate the act of smoking and relate a lot of the negative health stigma of smoking with cannabis consumption. But consuming cannabis is certainly not the same as smoking, and even smoking cannabis has a completely different effect. As we are all well aware, smoking causes severe damage to the lungs and can bring a number of health problems with it. Is using cannabis really the same?
Of course, when we smoke cannabis it is important to remember that we are burning a plant material, and so we are burning all of the chemicals within it, a lot of them can be bad for your health when combusted. Even the more obvious by-products of burned plant material such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and tar can cause health issues.
The act of smoking involves combustion or an open flame to burn away cannabis at a high temperature, this process creates around 88% non-cannabinoid matter and even burns away a lot of the useful cannabinoids that we are seeking to consume.
Cannabis does not contain exactly the same chemicals or carcinogens as tobacco. When cannabis is burned you are also inhaling cannabinoids which are powerful antioxidants. THC and CBD are the most commonly known to have a positive effect on the body. This is because it actually protects cells and the DNA from intrusive and harmful chemicals via the endocannabinoid system.
According to a new study, the lungs of people who use cannabis tend to hold up as well as that of a non-smoker when being transplanted. Researchers took a sample of 302 people who were undergoing a lung transplant, 19 of the transplanted lungs were that of a cannabis user. The study showed no significant difference between the non-smokers and the cannabis smokers.
Using cannabis may well help to reduce the harm caused by smoking. However, the more you smoke - the more likely you are to develop smoking-related health problems. Heavy smokers are often faced with problems such as mucus production, irritation of the lungs and bronchitis. However, the kind of lower respiratory tract infections associated with smoking have not yet been scientifically correlated with smoking or vaporizing cannabis and certainly not with medical cannabis oil. On the contrary, cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce infection and build up of mucus.
Researchers found that when you switch to vaporizing, you are inhaling the same cannabinoid content but without the added extra bits that come from smoking. To further this point, they even found that daily use of a cannabis vaporizer led to significant improvements in respiratory function, including a decrease in phlegm, coughs and tightness of the chest.
Smoking is never a good idea when it comes to your lung health, especially if you suffer from lung-related health issues such as bronchitis or emphysema, you should always be aware of the carcinogens and harmful chemicals that any kind of smoke contains. But with cannabis, things are becoming different with the use of vaporizers and medical oil which are bringing about new opportunities to enjoy and reap the medicinal benefits of cannabis without risking your lung health - because they do not burn the plant matter.
With studies suggesting that cannabis smokers need not worry if they wish to donate their lungs for transplant, it is evidence enough for us that a cannabis smokers lungs can work just as well as a healthy, non-smoker pair. Not only is this good for us cannabis enthusiasts because we could contribute to the organ donor industry in new ways and maintain a piece of mind that we are not doing our lungs any harm, but it is good for the world of organ donors who are often severely lacking in the number of healthy organs required.
Between 2005 and 2015, nearly a quarter of lung transplant patients died waiting for a donor in the UK. This gave rise to the NHS considering the lungs of a cannabis user for more high-risk patients who are in desperate need.
Unfortunately for us, to gain a really good idea of how cannabis really affects the lungs, researchers and doctors would need to take a sample of people who had only consumed cannabis, that is to say that blunts and joints or smoking in any form would not be included because of the extra material they contain such as rolling paper or tobacco. But with the information we already have, it seems that the results are already promising.
The restrictions on those eligible for a lung transplant do vary from each country, but they tend to be pretty strict. And for good reason. In the UK, a patient can be disqualified from eligibility for a lung transplant for the act of smoking or drug abuse - and this includes cannabis consumption. This is because this kind of action can compromise the success of the procedure, meaning that it becomes a burden not only on the patient, doctor and health system - but it also can mean a waste of a much-needed donor.
On the other hand, active cannabinoids such as THC have been found to improve the kind of immune response that protects the body from rejecting transplanted organs such as with during a skin graft or organ transplant, as with this study done on mice published in Journal of Leukocyte Biology. An American teacher and Vietnam veteran - Deb Staires, found that she could use medical cannabis oil to treat a tumour in her liver after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a great case in point for the fact that she chose only to eat the medicinal cannabis she used.
Whether or not the restrictions on allowing a cannabis user a lung transplant or using a cannabis users lungs for a transplant are fair, it is becoming clear that using cannabis does not have the same consequences as smoking tobacco.
As consumers move away from traditional methods of smoking cannabis, and embrace the new methods of consumption which are far more health conscious - such as medical oil or vaporizing, we may well start to find that cannabis can play a key role in supporting lung health.