Smoking tobacco. We all know it’s bad for our health. Smoking tobacco drastically increases our risk for lung, oral and many other cancers. It can also lead to poor dental health and halitosis, chronic bad breath. It’s for these reasons that vaping, or e-cigarettes, was invented.
Vaping is a term used to describe the process of inhaling a vapor into the lungs. The health impacts of vaping really depend upon the substance you’re inhaling.
E-cigarettes, for example, use aerosol to deliver nicotine into the lungs. This aerosol is often mistaken for water vapor and is full of harmful chemicals and tiny particles. Many of these chemicals and particles have been linked to cancer, respiratory disease, and heart disease.
It’s the same for cannabis, right?
We sat down with Dr. Nicholas Bottaro of DOCMJ to find out. Here’s what he had to say:
Research shows smoking and vaping cannabis is not the same as tobacco.
Dr. Nicholas Bottaro
A 2005 study found that cannabis smoke is not as carcinogenic, cancer-causing, as tobacco smoke. In fact, researchers found that the cannabinoids in cannabis smoke may actually kill cancer cells. Likewise, vaporizing pure cannabis oil isn’t as harmful as e-cigarettes. Pure cannabis oil with natural terpenes are as natural of a product as they come. There’s no evidence to suggest that vaping pure cannabis oil is toxic to the body.
When it comes to cannabis, there are a few ways to vape it. A patient may vaporize a flower pod or a concentrated cannabis oil. Both of these methods require heating cannabis without burning it. This releases the active, therapeutic ingredients in cannabis without the harmful smoke.
Most studies have shown no negative effects from inhaling vaporized cannabis. The very few studies arguing against it have shown inconclusive results. So, now that we understand vaping clean, pure cannabis is not harmful for the lungs, we can move to why this is a necessary route for some patients.
The Benefits of Inhaling Cannabis
The benefits of inhaling your cannabis medicine are multiple. When cannabis is heated and vaporized, the specific medicines contained within the cannabis plant enters into your bloodstream unaltered. Specifically speaking, the major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), stay in their true form.
You may have heard of ‘Delta-9-THC’. This is the true form of this medicine within the plant. It’s what’s been shown to have many specific therapeutic benefits. Inhaling cannabis is one of the only ways that this form of THC can enter the bloodstream. When ingested orally (swallowed), Delta-9-THC is converted into a completely different form by the liver called 11-Hydroxy-THC. This form of THC has different therapeutic benefits and may not be tolerated by all patients. It creates a much more potent, long-lasting psychotropic effect and is much more difficult to appropriately dose. While 11-Hydroxy-THC can be effective for some patients, vaping is often the best place to start. Vaping cannabis is not only safe, but also the most effective way of having the therapeutic benefits of Delta-9-THC and CBD.
Vaporizing cannabis also has an onset time of just 2 to 5 minutes which is another major reason for this route of administration. It’s the most effective, efficient and fastest route to deliver the hundreds of medicinal compounds found in the cannabis plant. If a patient is using cannabis for seizures, panic attacks, sudden onset or acute pain; then fast relief is necessary. A patient with these conditions does not have the time to wait 1-3 hours for an oral route to take effect. Additionally, the active therapeutic benefits are not as long lasting with inhalation, so a single dose will not leave the patient with a psychoactive feeling for longer than necessary. Vaping allows for a fast, efficient, and short-term therapeutic effect.
Lastly, it has been shown in multiple studies and case reports that vaping cannabis in uniquely beneficial for the lungs specifically. Patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), emphysema, or other lung diseases have shown improvement in lung function with inhaling CBD over taking it orally. CBD has unique anti-inflammatory properties that allow damaged lung tissue to be more efficient at delivering oxygen to the blood. CBD is also unique in that, unlike THC that gets converted into a different more potent form of itself, the liver mostly destroys CBD. This makes oral CBD have a very low effectiveness. While it can be used orally, CBD must be used in much greater dosages, which increases costs for the patient and may induce gastrointestinal upset. Inhaling CBD is not only beneficial for the lungs, but is up to 8x the therapeutic effectiveness for the entire body!
Many questions are asked about the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of inhaled cannabis. Simply stated, inhaling cannabis is much more comparable to an inhaler or nebulizer used by an asthma patient, then it is to smoking a cigarette. Technically speaking, a vape device is simply an electronic nebulizer for your cannabis medicine. If we put albuterol in a pen device instead of a pump-inhaler, the medical community would most likely embrace it because it’s understood to be a medicine that is safely inhaled. Once we see cannabis for the medicine it truly is, it becomes an easy transition to understand it as a medicine equally as safe to inhale.