Medical Marijuana Treatment For Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis is a hereditary disease that affects the respiratory and digestive systems, resulting in a thickness and stickiness of fluid associated with mucus and digestion. These fluids can cause clogs to passageways depending the severity of the disease. Chronic coughing and wheezing can be present, alongside diarrhea, heartburn, lung infection and overall fatigue. Developmental delays can also be associated with cystic fibrosis.

In people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

Traditional Medication

The following daily therapies are most common for individuals with Cystic Fibrosis:

  • Airway clearance to help loosen and get rid of the thick mucus that can build up in the lungs. Some airway clearance techniques require help from family members, friends or respiratory therapists. Many people with CF use an inflatable vest that vibrates the chest at a high frequency to help loosen and thin mucus.
  • Inhaled medicines to open the airways or thin the mucus. These are liquid medicines that are made into a mist or aerosol and then inhaled through a nebulizer. These medicines include antibiotics to fight lung infections and therapies to help keep the airways clear.

Pancreatic enzyme supplement capsules to improve the absorption of vital nutrients. These supplements are taken with every meal and most snacks. People with CF also usually take multivitamins.

Common pharmaceutical prescriptions for cystic fibrosis are Azithromycin, Ciprofloxacin and Tobramycin. Sodium chloride is another option by injection or inhalation. Treatment by a gastroenterologist and respiratory therapist are also common, as well as physical therapy and work with a nutritionist.

Cystic Fibrosis With Medical Marijuana

The most commonly reported cannabinoid treatment for cystic fibrosis is THC. It is believed that the bronchodilating, anti-inflammatory and appetite stimulating properties of cannabis are behind the successful interactions between cannabis and cystic fibrosis. Recommended strains include Holland’s Hope, Blackberry, Blueberry and Silver Haze.

There is a very limited amount of material regarding cystic fibrosis and medical marijuana.

How To Medicate With Cannabis

Vaporizing of cannabis and the oral ingestion of edibles and cannabis extract oil are the most common methods documented by patients. Smoking is not recommended due to the delicate lung functioning often associated with cystic fibrosis.

Vaporizing or Vaping

If you don’t like the idea of smoke there is the option to vaporize. Vaporization does not use combustion to heat the medicine. Unfortunately there is some confusion out there about vaporizers. There are now hundreds of vaporizers to choose from. There are three basic types: pen, hand-help, and tabletop. The differences are in price, portability and size. Some vaporizers claim to be able to vaporize plant matter (flowers), wax and oils. Some can only do concentrates, some only oil. The most important difference is the method used to heat the medicine. There are basically two methods (with hybrids on the way)- conduction and convection.

True Vaporizing is done by convection, where air is heated, and in turn the hot air turns the medicine a to vapor which is then inhaled. Conduction Vaporizing happens when a hot element (metal plate, or bowl) touches the medicine. The medicine is placed directly in a metal or ceramic bowl or chamber that is heated which then heats the medicine and the smoke is inhaled. This is still combustion, and not truly vaporizing. This is closer to dabbing but with a much cooler heating element.

Cannabis Edibles

Edibles provide ways to eat or drink your medicine. Many medicated edibles and even bottled drinks are readily available at dispensaries. Be aware that most of the edibles at dispensaries are loaded with sugar and carbs. But basically what the edibles and drinks all contain are canna butter and/or canna oil. You can purchase these or easily make them at home to add to your own baked goods, snacks or even meals (especially if you are avoiding sugar or gluten).

Cannabis Tinctures

Tinctures are not new. Until cannabis was banned in 1937, tinctures were the primary type of cannabis medicines. Tinctures are essentially alcohol extractions of whole cannabis (usually the flowers and trim leaves).

The best way to use tinctures is sublingually (under the tongue). Titration or dose control is easily achieved by the number of drops a patient places under the tongue where the medicine is rapidly absorbed into the arterial system and is quickly transported to the brain and body. All a patient need do with tincture is use a few drops, wait for the desired medical effects, and either use more or stop as the situation indicates. Tinctures can be flavored for better taste.

Patient Story

The story of Nick Landt, he first realized that cannabis brownies greatly reduced his cystic fibrosis symptoms as a teenager, citing “my lungs would open up more, allowing better oxygen intake, and was able to decrease the amount of sputum congestion my lungs.” After realizing this correlation, he researched the interaction and began to understand the dramatic effects of cannabis as an anti-inflammatory agent and bronchodilator. This prompted him to begin using a vaporizer in 2009 and following three months of using it, he described vastly improved symptoms and having “never felt better in his life.” Upon visiting his doctor, test results revealed dramatic results including the reduction of white blood cell irregularities and stabilized pulmonary functioning. When the doctor placed a stethoscope to Landt’s chest, there was no crackling, indicating no over-congestion of sputum in the lungs that he had suffered from so long.