The concept of medical marijuana and the possible benefits of using cannabis as a treatment option are being explored more frequently than ever before, but with that comes misinformation and misunderstandings about medical marijuana as well. Also, people tend to think that they can self-medicate with marijuana, but there are risks in doing so.

What about marijuana and asthma? Does marijuana help asthma or does it do the opposite?

The following provides an overview of asthma, and more specifically, marijuana and asthma.

Article at a Glance:

  • Asthma is a chronic lung condition that involves wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
  • Smoking marijuana can make asthma symptoms worse.
  • Consuming marijuana in ways other than smoking, such as edibles, is better for asthma sufferers.
  • Marijuana has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that may help with asthma.
  • Research on the connection between marijuana and asthma is limited, so do not self-medicate your asthma with marijuana.

What is Asthma?

Before looking at a potential relationship that could exist between marijuana and asthma, what is this condition?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition characterized by inflamed, narrow airways. Some of the symptoms of asthma include wheezing, tightness in the chest, coughing and shortness of breath. Coughing is often worse or most pronounced early in the morning or at night. Most people discover they have asthma during childhood and in the United States more than 25 million people are believed to have asthma.

Since people with asthma have inflamed airways, it tends to make them sensitive and if you inhale certain things you’re more likely to have a strong reaction. People with asthma may also produce more mucus than someone without the condition.

For some people, asthma symptoms are mild and may go away with medication-based treatment, but for other people, their symptoms get worse over time. There’s no cure for asthma, so instead, it’s about managing the symptoms of the disease and keeping it under control.

While the cause of asthma isn’t known, there are some factors believed to play a role in its development including genetics, and having certain respiratory or viral infections as an infant.
There are thousands of people in the U.S. that die each year because of complications related to asthma as well.

So, does marijuana help asthma?

Marijuana and Asthma

When you first hear the question “does marijuana help asthma,” it can seem counterintuitive. Most people believe that inhaling or smoking anything is going to make asthma potentially worse, and this isn’t necessarily untrue. We know for a fact that smoking cigarettes is harmful to the lungs and many other parts of the body, but does the same hold true for marijuana?

In terms of smoking marijuana and asthma, the two probably shouldn’t go hand-in-hand. Smoking marijuana has the potential to cause a severe asthma attack, and it’s not recommended for anyone that has a lung disease or a lung condition. Marijuana smoke can increase coughing, which is often already problematic in people with asthma, and it can also cause your throat to swell, and it can cause shortness of breath. There is some research showing marijuana may also increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

People who smoke marijuana may get certain lung infections as well.

With that being said, smoking marijuana isn’t the only way to use the drug. For example, people might use vaporizers, teas or they might use marijuana in various edible forms, such as in gummies.

In some forms, marijuana and asthma may have a useful link to one another because marijuana is considered an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. There’s one component of marijuana in particular that could be helpful, and that’s cannabinoids. The reason anti-inflammatory cannabinoids could be helpful to people with asthma is because asthma is chronic lung inflammation.

There’s still very limited research on marijuana and asthma, however, so doctors aren’t sure if there really is any benefit of using marijuana if you have asthma. There’s not any long-term evidence showing a positive link between marijuana and asthma at this point, but it may be something that researchers look at more as marijuana becomes seen as a medical alternative in a more mainstream way.

Regardless of whether or not you believe marijuana is helpful for asthma, you shouldn’t smoke it. There is almost complete agreement by researchers and medical professionals that with marijuana and asthma, smoking it can cause further inflammation of the lungs, throat, and tissues, and it can lead to impairment of lung function.

Summing Up—Does Marijuana Help Asthma?

Does marijuana help asthma? There’s no evidence that shows definitively that marijuana helps asthma, although there are some theories that its anti-inflammatory properties could help ease the inflammation of asthma. With that being said, while researchers may look at links between marijuana and asthma, it shouldn’t be smoked if you have any lung condition.

It can be dangerous to smoke marijuana to help asthma because it can further irritate lungs and lead to infections and the risk of lung cancer.

You also shouldn’t attempt to self-medicate your asthma with marijuana, because this can be dangerous as well. If you have asthma, you should always follow the treatment plan outlined by your doctor to avoid severe complications, hospitalization or worse.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.