Medical Marijuana to Treat Cystic Fibrosis Lung Pain

Updated on December 10, 2018.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Medical Marijuana to Treat Cystic Fibrosis Lung Pain
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is one of the many chronic conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. This inherited disease can lead to pulmonary and sinus infections, along with gastrointestinal issues. It can also cause lung damage, which makes it difficult to breathe and creates pain in patients’ chests and lungs. Other parts of the body cystic fibrosis affects include the pancreas, liver, digestive tract and reproductive tract.

About 30,000 people in the country have CF, and around 70,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the life-threatening condition. Research, education and improved care is changing the way CF affects people. Most children who were diagnosed with CF 60 years ago didn’t live to see adulthood, but today’s life expectancy for patients with CF is close to 40 years old.

Lung Pain and Cystic Fibrosis

Though CF affects the patient’s entire body, the lungs are the organs that are heavily affected. Cystic fibrosis trans-membrane regulator, or CFTR, is a protein that facilitates and manages the movement of sodium, chloride and water in the body. When you’re diagnosed with CF, that means you either have too much or too little CFTR.

The malfunction of CFTR creates a thick mucus that gets in the patient’s airways, making it painful and hard to breathe. As a result of the mucus not being cleared, bacteria can grow and infect the airways — this essentially causes a vicious cycle of airway blockage, mucus and infections. After many years of this cycle, the airways and lung tissue are eventually damaged.

Current Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis

As of now, there’s no cure for CF. And, since the symptoms can vary so drastically from patient to patient, doctors typically treat the disease on a case-by-case basis with a goal of relieving the symptoms rather than curing them. Infections, blockages and mucus build-up are some of the main symptoms they aim to relieve.

Currently, the following drugs are being employed as treatment methods for cystic fibrosis:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Mucus-thinning medication
  • Bronchodilators
  • Oral pancreatic enzymes
  • Ivacaftor
  • Orkambi

Other surgery, therapy and treatment options include:

  • General counseling
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Physical exercises
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Breathing techniques
  • Feeding tube
  • Bowel surgery
  • Nasal polyp removal
  • Lung transplant for severe complications

How Marijuana Can Help

While it can’t cure the life-threatening condition, medical cannabis can help to treat the lung pain you’re experiencing as a symptom of CF. The benefits a cystic fibrosis patient can get from medical cannabis could be enough to restore some of their quality of life.

Weed could help CF patients because of the medicine’s ability to:

  • Increase appetite. Many forms of medical marijuana are used to reduce nausea and increase appetite, two effects that could help cystic fibrosis patients eat and get the nutrients they need.
  • Relieve pain. Weed is also known for relieving aches and pains, which CF patients are all too familiar with. Abdominal, chest and lung pains are the most common, along with gallstones or kidney stones. Marijuana’s pain-relieving effect can treat these painful symptoms.
  • Reduce inflammation. The lungs are the part of the body that become the most inflamed in cystic fibrosis patients. Some cannabinoids can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, therefore reducing the inflammation in a patient’s lungs.
  • Reduce diarrhea. Cystic fibrosis patients need all the nutrients they can get, but they often struggle with diarrhea, losing any nutrients they had consumed. Cannabis can reduce this and help patients retain all the nutrients they manage to consume.

If you or someone you love is suffering from cystic fibrosis lung pain, it could be time to give medical marijuana a try. Browse our site to find marijuana doctors and learn more about how CF patients can benefit from medical cannabis.

Additional Cystic Fibrosis & Cannabis Resources

For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Cystic Fibrosis, check out our resources: