The following comes with all the normal provisos: I am not a doctor. I don’t portray one on television. As in all things that have to do with your health, consult with whomever you esteem as having expertise in the area you are concerned about. This is just information you might want to research yourself and decide whether it’s a good idea for you.
My husband is a Vietnam Vet. He came away from that war with PTSD. He was probably on the cusp of when the military was starting to take “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and other various appellations for PTSD seriously. He attended the PTSD clinic in Kansas City back in the seventies for some weeks.
In addition, he suffers from COPD, and a very strange and intermittent lack of balance which makes mobility difficult for him sometimes. The latter is usually attributed to several concussions suffered in youth and in a helicopter crash in Vietnam.
We live in New Mexico, a state that has a “medical marijuana” law. My husband is candidly, no stranger to pot. After all, we are from the 60’s generation and it would be expected that we had dabbled with cannabis and perhaps more over the decades.
In any event, my husband decided to pursue the issue in New Mexico. The process was easy for him. A quick trip to a psychiatrist for an evaluation, and the securing of his rather large PTSD file at the VA was essentially all that was required. My spouse was lucky in that a few years ago, the VA re-evaluated his PTSD pursuant to a renewed request for VA disability status.
His PTSD was diagnosed as active and ongoing, which, as I said, made the process with New Mexico fairly much a no-brainer.
Within a few weeks of his evaluation and submission of application, he received his card. We live in Las Cruces, which has several “drugstores” that cater exclusively to medical marijuana users, so my husband soon was purchasing weed legally for the first time in his life.
We were concerned that whatever relief he might garner from the marijuana vis-a-vis his PTSD might be overwhelmed by a turn for the worse in his COPD status. We expected that he might have to use it in the form of food or as a vape. But he started out in the traditional way: the joint.
After a week, an amazing thing happened. His breathing improved dramatically. Not just dramatically as far as he was concerned, but it was astoundingly obvious to me. I had long grown used to the fact that even walking from the car to the house left his breathing hard. The focus of walking straight seemed to add to his burdened lungs even more difficulty.
Yet, here he was almost NEVER breathing hard no matter what he was doing. Surely he was still taking his inhalers as required, but he was no longer waiting for his next dosage–he often forgot.
So much better did he feel in fact that he has started to ride the recumbent bicycle each morning, taking Diego for a good ride through the neighborhood. He returns in fine fetter and for a while at least, even his mobility improves.
I’ve done some cursory research. What I have learned is that a couple of very long term studies seem to have put to bed the argument that marijuana is even worse than cigarettes for the lungs. In fact, for “light users” there seemed no long term damage to the lungs at all. Even with heavy usage (daily) there seemed to be little change.
Beyond that, there seems to be an increasingly large anecdotal collection of data that suggests that contrary to expectations, use of marijuana seems to help COPD patients. A number of theories are advanced: the normal coughing that might bring up more phlegm and thus open the lungs, the deeper inhaling customary to pot smokers, or just the general relaxation of the body’s systems which allow for greater oxygen intake.
For whatever reason, some COPD patients have reported that they are doing much much better using marijuana. One person has gotten off inhalers completely.
While my husband has not experienced quite that dramatic an improvement, it has been significant. He has been much more active, which explains the bike riding. He sleeps very much better, the best in years. His balance issues come and go, but he feels that that is a worthwhile tradeoff for breathing so much easier.
I wondered whether I should talk about this, but it seems to me that the tide has turned on the issue of marijuana in this country. Colorado and Washington State have led the way, as well as a number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. People on Facebook, for instance, now talk openly, supporting further legalization.
I thought therefore that I had some obligation to speak out as well. If you have a medical condition and live in a state that allows medical marijuana, you might be surprised at the range of diseases or conditions that can be improved. Who would have thought that smoking a joint would help COPD?
As I said, I’m no doctor. I’m sure a boatload of them will still say it’s a bad idea. A boatload of marijuana supports will say otherwise. As far as I can find, most of the supposed dangers of marijuana are way overblown, and it seems certainly to be less of a health risk than alcohol.
I have no interest in talking you into anything. I just offer one story, one anecdote among others that suggest that some really good stuff can come from pot. I can’t speak to what that might mean five years down the road or twenty. It’s just more information for you to use as YOU see fit in determining your own care.