More than half of Americans with uncontrolled asthma smoke marijuana

More than half of Americans who do not have their asthma under control are marijuana users, a new small study suggests.

Researchers found that about one-third of patients whose asthma is untreated and out of control have smoked cannabis in the past while one-fifth report currently use the drug.

What’s more, the patients were more likely to report positive benefits of the drug such as less pain, decreased anxiety, euphoria and better sleep than negative effects such as wheezing and coughing,

The team, from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says doctors need to inquire about smoking in their asthma patients and recommend other potentially safer routes such as edibles.

A new study from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that, of uncontrolled asthma patients (in yellow), 33% had smoked weed in the past and 20.6% were current users

‘It surprised me that over half of the cannabis users in this study who have asthma were smoking it,’ said principal investigator Dr Joanna Zeiger of the Canna Research Foundation in Boulder, Colorado.

‘And further, of those with uncontrolled asthma, half reported smoking cannabis. We also found that people with asthma are not routinely being asked or advised by their physician about cannabis and how they are consuming it.’ 

For the survey, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the team recruited nearly 500 adults, 245 of whom had asthma.  

Asthma is a chronic and incurable respiratory condition that causes the airways to become inflamed, or swollen, making it hard to breathe. 

Signs and symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment typically includes long-term control medications that are often inhaled to control symptoms. 

Of the 245 respondents, 148 have controlled asthma – meaning they experience very few symptoms throughout the day and night – and  97 have uncontrolled asthma. 

Nearly 60 percent of people with asthma reported using cannabis at least once int he past or currently.   

A total of 33 percent of uncontrolled asthma sufferers has ever used weed and 20.6 percent were current users.

This is in comparison with about 12 percent of the U.S. population that smokes pot.

These are similar to rates seen among controlled asthma patients, of whom 39.9 percent were ever-users and 20.9 percent were current users. 

Most patients reported positive effects of using the drug as 75 percent saying it helped with sleep, 68 percent each saying it was calming and reduced pain and 67 percent reported decreased anxiety.

Meanwhile, just 21.6 percent reported cannabis increased their anxiety and 19.3 percent reported coughing.   

Also, surprisingly, 60 percent of asthma patients said their doctors did not inquire whether or not they were using marijuana.

‘In order to more completely manage their allergy/asthma patients, allergists should increase their knowledge about cannabis and inquire about cannabis use including types of cannabinoid, route of use, reasons for use, and adverse effects,’ said study-co-author and allergist Dr William Silvers.

He notes that smoking any substance, including marijuana, can irritate the lung tissue and trigger an asthma attack. 

‘As with cigarette smoking, efforts should be made to reduce smoking of cannabis, and recommend other potentially safer routes such as edibles and sublingual tinctures.’  

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