Cannabis and COPD

It’s estimated that seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population using cannabis-based products. Indeed, a new survey showed that 45% of respondents over the age of 60 reported past-year marijuana use. Reasons for use included several medical issues, such as arthritis, back pain, anxiety, and more. 

A recent large-scale study also looked at off-label use of the synthetic cannabinoids nabilone and dronabinol in older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Compared to individuals without COPD, older adults with COPD used synthetic cannabinoids for significantly longer durations, more frequently, and at higher doses to help manage symptoms associated with COPD. Overall, use was relatively low. 

According to the Lung Institute, there is little research regarding the effects of cannabinoid-based products and COPD, and the results are mixed. Some studies have reported that smoking marijuana may be just as bad as smoking cigarettes. However, others suggest use of other forms of cannabinoids may provide some benefit for COPD systems. Additional research is necessary to determine long-term safety and efficacy of cannabinoids in COPD patients


Lum H, Arora K, Croker JA, Qualls SH, Schuchman M, Bobitt J, Milavetz G, Kaskie B. Patterns of marijuana use and health impact: Asurvey among older coloradans. Gerontol Geriatr Med. 2019 Apr 26; 5: 2333721419843707. 

Vozoris NT, Yao Z, Li P, Austin PC, Stephenson AL, Gill SS, O’Donnell DE, Gershon AS, Rochon PA. Prescription synthetic oral cannabinoid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A population-based cohort study. Drugs Aging. 2019 Sep 24. 

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