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Medical Marijuana and Cystic Fibrosis

What Is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects secretions of the body. Its primary symptom is a production of mucus that is thicker than mucus in individuals without the disease. The mucus causes potentially fatal problems in the respiratory and digestive systems. Over the course of the disease, the symptoms may fluctuate between severe and easily manageable. The effect of the disease will also differ from sufferer to sufferer.  The most obvious effects of cystic fibrosis are respiratory symptoms. They include a mucus filled cough, congestion, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, sinus infection, sinus pain and poor lung function. Cystic fibrosis can cause symptoms as early as birth. Newborns with cystic fibrosis may not have a bowel movement for the first two days of life. Growth may occur later than expected in children and they may fail to gain appropriate weight for their age. Weight loss or failure to gain weight is related to the digestive symptoms of cystic fibrosis. The backup of mucus makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients in food. The food is essentially digested without nourishing the body. Other digestive symptoms include nausea, lack of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain and pale feces. The body will also secrete increased amounts of salt, leading to salty sweat.

Medical Marijuana and Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis and Medical Marijuana Research 

Because cystic fibrosis can cause potentially fatal lung complications, it is not a good idea to damage the lungs further by inhaling smoke. However, there are number of different ways to ingest medical marijuana, so it is safe for cystic fibrosis sufferers. Certain forms of medical marijuana are known to increase appetite and reduce nausea. This can help with weight loss and loss of appetite. However, it is unlikely to help in the absorption of nutrients, though eating more does increase the chances of a cystic fibrosis patient acquiring nutrients from food. 

There is a very limited amount of material regarding cystic fibrosis and medical marijuana. In fact, it seems very few medical scientists have delved into this area of medical marijuana research. That may change with methods of medical marijuana delivery and synthetic derivatives of cannabis being developed more frequently than in the past. It may also change with acceptance of medical marijuana as a treatment for children, as cystic fibrosis is mainly a childhood disease. Individuals with cystic fibrosis who do survive into adulthood do not typically live beyond 35 years of age. 

Cystic Fibrosis and Medical Marijuana 

The objection to medical marijuana being used on children appears to be the "high" produced by recreational marijuana. Not all medical marijuana produces this effect. One example of medical marijuana that does not produce this high is JWH133. The potential for this medication and others to help individuals with cystic fibrosis has not been established. However, there is hope for future research in the area. Nevertheless, despite the lack of research in some areas of cystic fibrosis and medical marijuana, there is sufficient research on medical marijuana for other diseases to support its use for cystic fibrosis sufferers. 

Nausea is one of the few ailments for which the U.S. government has approved medical marijuana in the form of Marinol. It is primarily used for individuals undergoing chemotherapy. It is also an antiemetic. Regardless, it is shown to help in even treatment resistant cases of chemotherapy-related nausea. One of the other ailments for which medical marijuana is widely approved is loss of appetite. This too is used on only a specific subset of sufferers -- AIDS patients with loss of appetite. However, it is shown to work and not only on AIDS patients.

Now, to say that there is a severe lack of research in this area is not to say there is none. A doctor by the name of Ester Fride did delve into the many possibilities for medical marijuana as cystic fibrosis medication in her paper "Cannabinoids and Cystic Fibrosis: A Novel Approach to Etiology and Therapy." Not only were the above proven qualities of the drug discussed, but she also went on to suggest that medical marijuana could assist in bronchodilation and act as an anti-inflammatory.

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