Cannabis has very few side effects, and they’re generally mild. Often those secondary effects, like appetite or sleep stimulation, can be extremely beneficial for cystic fibrosis patients. Even so, it’s important to know how to choose the right strain so symptoms are treated more effectively. And whenever possible, under appropriate medical supervision.
Epithelial cells normally release a layer of sticky mucus that captures dust and germs and acts as a lubricant. Cystic fibrosis patients have inherited a faulty gene that makes epithelial cells produce a protein (also faulty) that causes the formation of thicker, more sticky secretion which can lead to many serious issues.
In 2001, Doctor Ester Fride analysed the numerous applications of medical cannabis in her article Cannabinoids and Cystic Fibrosis- A Novel Approach to Etiology and Therapy. Not only did she discuss the properties that had already been previously proven, but also suggested that medical cannabis could help as a powerful bronchodilator.
Cannabis types and varieties
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that alters the respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems in the human body. More specifically, it affects the epithelial cells in the lungs, the pancreas, the liver, the sweat glands, and the digestive tract.
But you can also use a combination of several methods to create a system best suited to your symptoms.
For instance, instead of acting as a lubricant in the lungs, it obstructs the airways and captures bacteria that can cause infections, lung damage, and eventually respiratory failure.
There is currently no cure for cystic fibrosis. Doctors treat symptoms individually because these can vary significantly from one patient to another. They specifically focus on prevention and on the treatment of infections and intestinal blockages, as well as on eliminating lung mucus. Ensuring appropriate nutrition is also key.
In comparison to CF and the general usage frequency in the U.S. of about 15%, other disease-specific studies have shown variable, but generally higher, rates. One study in the U.S. analysed utilisation in orthopaedic surgery patients, with 34% of patients using marijuana out of a total of 275 completed surveys . Another study in the U.S., analysing a population with gynaecological cancer, showed a rate of 26.7% of 225 surveys analzyed . A 2004 Canadian study found that 28.8% of 104 patients with HIV reported use . In multiple sclerosis, a Spanish study of 175 patients showed a rate of 17.1%, while in the U.K. in 254 surveys the rate was 30% [14, 15]. A large 2019 study demonstrated a higher usage rate of medical marijuana in younger patients, a trend that was also seen in this study .
An anonymous survey was sent out to six centers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Use of and reason for medical marijuana was assessed, along with attitudes of the perceived utility of medical marijuana.
Compared to the current usage rate in the general U.S. population, the utilisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes was comparable in this specific CF cohort. With increased availability and a patient population that is expected to live longer, usage may increase. Based on this study, CF physicians are going to have to begin incorporating discussions about potential usage of medical marijuana in their patient panels, and concerns about side effects as well as the potential for toxicity with inhalation should be part of that discussion.
The data were analyzed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Wilcoxon two-sample tests were used to determine whether age group, lung health, or overall health influenced current use of medical marijuana or the use of medical marijuana if it were made legal. A continuity-adjusted chi-squared test was used to determine if gender impacted current or future use of medical marijuana.
The use of marijuana does not come without potential for side effects, both short and long term. In a 2015 meta-analysis of 79 medical marijuana studies, overall as well as serious adverse events were greater in the marijuana group . Common short-term adverse events were dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, loss of balance and hallucination. A 2010 meta-analysis noted a consistent association between marijuana use and psychotic episodes . Neurocognitive issues, motor vehicle accidents and emergency department visits may also be increased with marijuana use . Deleterious lung effects documented include an increased prevalence of chronic cough, sputum production, wheezing, shortness of breath as well as episodes of acute bronchitis . This lung morbidity could be more deleterious in the CF population which already has underlying pulmonary disease.
Given this, physicians will need to discuss marijuana use with their CF patients and counsel them on the potential for side effects. As importantly, the route of use should be discussed. In this study, vaporisation or smoking marijuana was the preferred delivery for 45% of subjects. In light of their pre-existing lung disease as well as the recent crisis of severe disease with vaporisation, inhalation of marijuana from any delivery system should be discouraged .
Of the 189 survey completions, 31 subjects (16.5%) reported having used marijuana for medical reasons, and 29 subjects (15.4%) reported having done so in the past 12 months. The route of administration used by subjects was diverse, with 90% reporting edible use, 48% vaporised, 38% smoked, 25% oil, 6% tea, and 6% topical. Edible was the preferred method of 48% of the subjects, while vaporized was preferred by 32%, smoked by 13%, and oil by 6%. Reasons for use are listed in Table 2.
I could feel good about gummy bears. Cute bears. Innocent, pure. “Pop maybe, like, two,” the blond girl at the cashier’s counter said. She’d just finished telling us about how she regularly smuggled marijuana flowers onto airplanes, which tainted my attempts to focus on this venture being a perfectly legal experience.
Flash forward two hours, and we’re in a legal marijuana dispensary that’s seemingly co-run by Tommy Chong and Willy Wonka. Cannabis was infused into every treat imaginable: chocolate, lollipops, cookies, brownies, Jolly Ranchers. Luckily, my CF-related diabetes hadn’t kicked in by that time.
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In intense pain, throwing up numerous times a day, and having multiple panic attacks every day, it was devastating news. It took me actively dying to realize what all the fuss was about when it came to the fight to legalize marijuana for those who were suffering. What was I able to receive for relief? B enzodiazepines , morphine, fentanyl. Things that are highly-addictive and can ruin lives. Meanwhile, cannabis was right out of reach.
I don’t know for certain that cannabis could help CF patients in big ways, though I’ve encountered plenty of firsthand and secondhand anecdotal evidence to suggest that. And marijuana isn’t free of downsides. (Is any medication, though?) What I’m saying is, we need to ask and get answers . Let’s push for research into the potential that cannabis could dull the intensity of our destructive disease.
My airways and sinuses shot wide open for the first time in years, and my inflammation pain “magically” disappeared. I also coughed up a lot of mucus. And my brain didn’t turn into overcooked oatmeal like I’d always imagined would happen. It was my first time meeting Mary Jane, and she was … pleasant. I walked back to my hotel grinning, drew a piping hot bath, and faded into a food coma in the tub.