Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterised by persistent airway hyper responsiveness to certain external stimuli. Many people are born with this condition and live with it for the rest of their lives. Most of the pharmaceutical medications
in the market usually provide symptomatic relief during acute attacks but a drug that can permanently treat this allergic condition is yet to be developed.
Asthma and Medical Marijuana
Marijuana, also known as cannabis sativa is known for all the bad reasons. It is a central nervous system stimulant that is used more commonly as a recreational substance. Currently, there are authorities that believe and are advancing the idea of using medical marijuana in the treatment of chronic asthma.
The advocates or proponents of the value of medical marijuana in the treatment of asthma draw their arguments from research that has been carried out in the lab using animal models as well as human subjects. The findings of these researches point to the availability of some evidence to support benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of asthma.
In as much as marijuana produces many physical and psychological actions that can stimulate the body in the short term; Critics and opponents believe that medical marijuana could be beneficial in the short term in the treatment asthma but may have long-term difficulties.
History of Asthma and Medical Marijuana
The American Review of Respiratory Disease in the year 1975, carried out a study on this subject. In this study, eight individuals with known asthma were induced to develop bronchial spasms by inhaling a stimulant chemical while others were subjected to physical exertion through bicycle exercise.
Some subjects among the eight were put on placebo medical marijuana while the rest received actual medical marijuana. The findings were that those who received placebo had their normal respiratory function regained after 30 to 60 minutes while those on medical marijuana had an instant symptomatic relief of asthma.
How Does Marijuana Produce Its Effects?
As already been mentioned, asthma is an airway narrowing disease in which there is constriction of the air passages which interferes with exhalation and gaseous exchange. Marijuana has an active ingredient called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which stimulates the cells lining the respiratory airways leading to relaxation. In medical terms, it mediates a process known as bronchodilation. It also prevents bronchial spasms by stabilizing the smooth muscles lining the respiratory airways.
All these effects are produced in the short term but with long term exposure; there can be paradoxical airway inflammation and chronic cough. Furthermore, the beneficial effects on asthmatics are only short lived meaning that it will require repetitive use of this substance.
What Is The Verdict?
Medical marijuana has proven positive benefits in the treatment of asthma although it is just for prevention of attacks. Because of the associated long term effects of this substance, it is important that more research is carried out before it can be authorized for the treatment of acute exacerbations of asthma.