Pneumonia Anybody can develop pneumonia, and it’s a common respiratory infection complication. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, but there are many other reasons you might get the Patients struggling to recover from difficult complications with pneumonia may be surprised to learn some are using medical marijuana to aid in recovery.
Anybody can develop pneumonia, and it’s a common respiratory infection complication. The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, but there are many other reasons you might get the condition. Children, older adults, and patients with chronic diseases like asthma and COPD have a higher risk of developing pneumonia. Its symptoms will leave you feeling miserable. Luckily, among other treatments, there’s medical marijuana for pneumonia to help relieve some of the symptoms this infection causes.
How and Why Medical Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Pneumonia
Heavy cannabis smokers have more chances of developing lung damage, since the smoke from marijuana has many of the same chemicals tobacco smoke has and is harmful to the delicate air sacs inside your lungs. Smoking small amounts of cannabis hasn’t been proven to increase your chances of COPD.
However, some studies show smoking cannabis or taking THC could have potent human airway-dilating effects. In a study published in the journal Nature, the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide in rodents revealed bronchial response dual effects. It strongly hindered a capsaicin-induced cough and bronchospasm.
You can control coughs in various conditions by targeting upper airway cannabinoid receptors.
Unlike tobacco smoke, which constricts airways, cannabis smoke causes air passages to expand. It also doesn’t lead to central respiratory depression like opiates.
In one study, bronchospasm induced by exercise led to recovery within 60 minutes with placebo marijuana and saline. A solution with around 2 percent cannabis led to an instant reversal of exercise-induced hyperinflation and asthma.
Let Marijuana Doctors Help You Find Pneumonia Symptom Relief Through Cannabis
Here at Marijuana Doctors, we make it easy for you to begin using medical marijuana for symptom relief. First, you need to obtain a recommendation for medical cannabis and pneumonia treatment from a qualified doctor. You need this to become a medical marijuana patient in any state that has legalized the herb for medicinal purposes.
To get your recommendation, you must first find a medical cannabis doctor using our handy directory. Once you locate a doctor or practice in your local area, you can request an appointment. You can also search our database for a cannabis dispensary.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Pneumonia Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Medical cannabis for pneumonia can help relieve certain symptoms such as:
- A cough that could produce phlegm
- Chest pain when breathing or coughing , nausea or vomiting
Medical cannabis also helps with the inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs, which is a common symptom of pneumonia.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Pneumonia Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
Marijuana for pneumonia strains that are low in THC and high in CBD are useful for patients looking for anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and anti-pain treatment. Some good marijuana and pneumonia strains include:
- Cannatonic (hybrid)
- ACDC (Sativa-dominant)
- Avi-Dekel (Indica-dominant)
- Great White Shark (Sativa-dominant)
- Harlequin (Sativa-dominant)
- Charlotte’s Web (Sativa-dominant)
- Rafael (Sativa-dominant)
- Blue Blood (Indica-dominant)
- Sour Tsunami (Sativa-dominant)
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Pneumonia
If you have lung problems, you shouldn’t smoke medical weed. Your best bet is to make a whole plant tincture out of a hybrid strain. Place a drop under your tongue twice daily to begin, and increase when needed.
Other cannabis for pneumonia treatment methods include:
Edibles are also good, especially when made with good cannabutter. You can make oil using quality grapeseed oil or olive oil.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a type of common lung infection that causes inflammation. It often develops in those who have the flu, but bacteria, fungi, and other viruses can also precipitate pneumonia. The symptoms of pneumonia can vary, and can range from mild to severe.
What caused your pneumonia, as well as the severity of your symptoms and your overall health and your age, will dictate your treatment. Typically, a healthy individual will recover from the condition within one to three weeks. However, pneumonia can be life-threatening.
You can decrease your risk of developing pneumonia by getting a flu shot once a year. Washing your hands and getting the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine if you’re at high risk can also help prevent pneumonia.
Possible Ways You May Develop Pneumonia Include:
- After breathing in certain bacteria into your lungs from your throat and nose — this tends to happen during sleep.
- After inhaling infected air particles.
- After or during a cold, the flu or another viral upper respiratory infection.
- As a complication of another viral illness, like chickenpox or measles.
- By breathing large amounts of gastric stomach juices, food or vomit into your lungs. This condition may occur when you have a stroke, seizure or another medical condition affecting your ability to swallow.
Even if you’re healthy, your throat and nose can still contain viruses or bacteria causing pneumonia. When these organisms reach your lungs, you can develop pneumonia, since your lungs are susceptible to infection. A cold or even a chronic illness like COPD are good examples of when this could happen.
You’re at a higher risk of getting pneumonia if you:
- Have another type of health condition, particularly a lung disease like asthma or COPD
- Are older than 65 or younger than a year old
- Drink a lot of alcohol
- Have an impaired immune system
- Take a proton pump inhibitor like Protonix or Prilosec to decrease stomach acid
- Recently had the flu or a cold
Types of Pneumonia
The main pneumonia types are classified by:
- Cause of infection
- Where the infection was transmitted
- How you acquired the infection
Types by Organism
The germs causing the infection can also classify pneumonia.
- Viral pneumonia: Respiratory viruses are common causes of pneumonia, particularly in older people and children. They’re generally not as serious as other types, and don’t last long. Viral pneumonia can spread through the droplets in a cough or sneeze.
- Bacterial pneumonia: A type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common causeof bacterial pneumonia. Other types of bacteria, such as Legionella pneumophila and Chlamydia pneumoniae, may also cause bacterial pneumonia. Like viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia can spread to other individuals through coughing and sneezing.
- Fungal pneumonia: Bird droppings and soil fungi may cause pneumonia in individuals who inhale a lot of these organisms, as well as those with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is one type of fungal pneumonia. It affects individuals who have weakened immune systems, like those with AIDS. Sometimes, it appears as the first symptom of AIDS. This type doesn’t spread from person to person.
- Mycoplasma pneumonia: These aren’t bacteria or viruses, but they do have characteristics of them both. Mycoplasmas typically only cause mild pneumonia cases, usually in young adults and older children.
Types by Location Acquisition
You may also classify pneumonia based on where you acquired it.
- Community-acquired pneumonia: You get this type of pneumonia outside of an institutional or medical setting.
- Hospital-acquired pneumonia: HAP is a bacterial pneumonia you acquire when staying at a hospital. It’s more severe than other types, since it often involves antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Types by How You Acquired Them
You may also classify pneumonia based on how you acquired it.
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia: VAP is a type of pneumonia you get from using a ventilator.
- Aspiration pneumonia: Aspiration pneumonia occurs when drinks, food or saliva cause you to inhale bacteria into your lungs. You tend to get this type when you have a swallowing problem, or if alcohol, medication or other illicit drugs sedate you.
History of Pneumonia
Formerly called “The Winter Fever,” pneumonia dates back a long time. Around 460 BCE, the Greek physician Hippocrates first described pneumonia symptoms. While it had many names throughout history, people often identified it as a type of sickness.
In 1875, Edwin Klebs, a German pathologist, used a microscope to look at pneumonia bacteria for the first time. Albert Frankel and Carl Friedlander identified a couple of common bacterial causes for the condition in the 1880s.
By the 1930s and 1940s, methods of handling pneumonia included sulfonamide therapy and the antibiotic penicillin. Today, even though mortality rates from pneumonia have decreased nearly 4 percent per year since 1999, it’s still a significant worldwide issue.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
As mentioned, your symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe and depend on your health, age and the germ that caused the infection. With mild cases of pneumonia, your symptoms are similar to those of the flu or a cold, except they last for a more extended period.
Signs of pneumonia could include:
- Chest pain when coughing or breathing
- Changes in mental awareness or confusion in adults 65 or older
- Fever, shaking, sweating, chills
- Coughing up phlegm
- Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Feeling weak or tired
- Breathing problems
- Lower body temperature than normal
Infants and newborns might not show signs of pneumonia, or they might have a fever, vomit, cough or appear tired or restless with no energy. They may also have difficulty eating and breathing.
Effects of Pneumonia
Some individuals with pneumonia, even with treatment and particularly those at high risk, may have complications such as:
- Difficulty breathing: With severe pneumonia or if you have an underlying chronic lung disease, you might have difficulty getting enough oxygen when you breathe. You might require hospitalization and a ventilator to help you breathe until your lungs heal.
- Lung abscess: If pus forms in a lung cavity, it can cause an abscess. Antibiotics usually treat abscesses. However, in some cases, other treatments are necessary, including drainage with a long needle, surgery or a tube inserted into the abscess to draw out the pus.
- Bacteremia, or bacteria in your bloodstream: Bacteria from your lungs get into your blood, spreading the infection to your other organs, possibly causing organ failure.
- Pleural effusion: In this condition, fluid builds up between lung and chest cavity tissue layers. If it causes an infection, you may require a chest tube to drain it or have it removed with surgery.
Patients with pneumonia are almost twice as likely to end up with depression or another mental health problem, reports the University of Michigan Health System. Pneumonia isn’t just life-threatening — it’s also a life-altering event for some people. For some people, their diminished quality of life and substantial chronic care requirements are much like heart disease effects. Brain issues can be so extensive they can result in nursing home admissions and disability in older adults.
According to joint research from the University of Washington School of Medicine and University of Michigan Health System, patients who received pneumonia treatment — including those who didn’t need critical care and those who required hospitalization even once in nine years — were more than two times likelier to develop new cognitive problems.
Estimates by the American Thoracic Society show:
- Around 1 million U.S. adults each year are hospitalized for pneumonia, and around 50,000 of them die from their illness.
- Children under 5 make up 120 million pneumonia events each year.
- More than 10 percent of these cases turn into severe events.
- Pneumonia is the top cause of death worldwide in children under 5 years old, and accounts for 15 percent of all fatalities of children under 5.
Current Treatments Available for Pneumonia and Their Side Effects
Pneumonia treatment involves preventing complications and curing the infection. If severe, you may require hospitalization. If you have community-acquired pneumonia, you can typically receive medication and treatment at home. While the symptoms tend to ease up in several days or weeks, you can feel tired for more than a month.
You may take various steps to prevent pneumonia, such as:
- Avoid others with infections associated with the risk of developing pneumonia.
- Quit smoking.
- Stay clear of individuals with the flu, a cold or another respiratory tract infection.
- Wash your hands often to keep bacteria and viruses from spreading and leading to pneumonia.
- Get chickenpox or measles vaccinations, if you haven’t already, and avoid individuals who have these illnesses.
Children receive a routine pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. People 65 or older, as well as those with chronic respiratory conditions, should get pneumococcal shots too.
While this vaccine doesn’t necessarily prevent pneumonia, it can prevent serious pneumonia-related complications like bacteremia or septicemia — an infection that spreads throughout the body.
Specific treatments depend on the type and severity of your pneumonia, your age, and your overall health.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics help treat bacterial pneumonia. It could take some time for your doctor to identify the type of pneumonia you have and find an antibiotic to best treat it. Therefore, you may have to take a broad antibiotic initially, and your doctor will switch to another one if needed. Side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea and allergic reactions.
- Pain relievers and fever reducers: These medications can help with discomfort and fever. Some examples include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) and aspirin. Side effects may include stomach pain, loss of appetite, itching, and nausea.
- Cough medicine: Cold medicine suppresses your cough, allowing you to rest. However, you shouldn’t obliterate your cough, since it helps with loosening and moving fluid from your lungs. Over-the-counter cough medications may not even lessen a pneumonia-induced cough. Side effects may include blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, and confusion.
You might need to stay in the intensive care unit of your hospital if you have severe symptoms or require a ventilator.
Can Medical Marijuana Help Patients Recover from Pneumonia?
Treating pneumonia with medical marijuana is complicated. Not only can the effects of it vary depending on the type of pneumonia you have, but it is also known to cause pneumonia in people who are long-term marijuana smokers. Cannabis smoke does not appear to increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer . However, it is associated with symptoms of chronic bronchitis ( 8 ).
According to a 2015 expert panel review of the literature “It is unclear whether cannabis is associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. Some case series and studies in immunocompromised patients have noted a link, but no definitive studies have been done. Some effects of smoked cannabis could predispose to pneumonia ( 8 ).”
The use of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) suppresses macrophages, a type of immune cell, and their functionality in alveoli which are little air sacs that connect to the bronchioles and bronchi (where air enters the lungs) (8). Alveoli are important because it’s the portion of the lung where your blood cells exchange carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen. THC also causes the ciliated, or hair-like bronchial tissues to be replaced by hyperplastic mucus-secreting bronchial cells. This is related to increased phlegm and the cough smokers develop.
Cannabis begins its influence on the body through the activation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is made up of fat-based neurotransmitters that the body self produces. Through the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the body, the cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and cannabidiol (CBD) , can increase or decrease neurotransmitters in the body, allowing for immune modulation, pain reduction, and other physiological effects.
An evidence brief from the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research on the lungs and cannabis notes that THC activates the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA), which binds to CB1 receptors in the lungs, causing the bronchial muscles, or upper lung to relax (17). This can help open up the airways into the lungs, but if THC is ingested and the airways are already relaxed, patients may experience bronchospasms which restrict the airways. It is thought that acute use helps relax the bronchial muscles, but long-term cannabis use actually constricts the lungs’ ability to take in air.
For more information on how the endocannabinoid system works, please see our page on endocannabinoids here .
Cannabis Use and Pneumonia
Using medical cannabis while you have pneumonia can have different effects depending on a variety of factors. If you are a long-term cigarette or cannabis smoker, despite the evidence above about how cannabis can help open airways, it most likely will cause you to have a harder time breathing while you have pneumonia.
Marijuana smoking or cigarette smoking can cause you to experience the following: increased coughing, increased mucus production, possible allergy to any contaminants, and increased risk for infection (23).
It is important to note that research supports that these issues can improve after smoking has stopped, so these changes are not necessarily permanent unless you are suffering from chronic lung disease or other cardiopulmonary complications (8 ). If you continue to suffer from the above symptoms after quitting and it has been several months, please reach out to your health care provider to determine why you are having continued shortness of breath or other breathing issues.
Vaping and edibles offer more efficient and less irritating methods of delivery while avoiding potentially hazardous free radicals and carbon monoxide from combustion. In general, inhalational methods are best avoided in patients with pneumonia or lung issues (8).
In general, medical marijuana has the following positive health effects:
- Temporarily increase bronchodilation (17)
- Reduce chronic pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Temporarily increases lung capacity
Treating Pneumonia with Medical Cannabis
Treating pneumonia with medical cannabis is not recommended by smoking or inhaling it because it can irritate the lungs, throat, and airways, and actually increase your risk for developing pneumonia over time (17). Smoking cannabis, like tobacco smoke, increases your risk of damage to your lungs over time. It can also increase your body’s risk of health problems and infections such as pneumonia through its ability to modulate your immune system.
Through modulating your immune system, cannabis helps decrease chronic pain and inflammation by slowing down immune cell responses in B/T lymphocytes and macrophages, as well as altering the presence of cytokines (17). This may be great for people who have chronic inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune diseases and arthritis to slow the body’s attack on healthy tissue, but it can increase your risk for infection.
Smoking and Pneumonia: Notes to Consider
It is important to note that cannabis can sometimes contain bacteria and fungus that may also increase your risk of infection when inhaling cannabis, particularly if you have another chronic condition that lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off infections or are taking immunity-modifying medications (17).
It is also unlikely, but possible, to be allergic to any contaminants like Aspergillus and Penicillium mold present on contaminated cannabis (17)(8). This is also noteworthy for persons with predisposing asthma or cystic fibrosis . All the more reason for everyone to double-check the lab quality of your cannabis before purchasing or consuming it.
Understanding the Different Types of Pneumonia
There are four main types of pneumonia; they are grouped by what is causing the infection. Healthcare providers may also further divide pneumonia into two groups: community-acquired vs healthcare-associated pneumonia, depending on the probable source of infection (2). This helps providers determine appropriate management and treatment per guidelines from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and other professional societies (4 ) . There are also many subtypes of each of the four main kinds that include new diagnoses like pneumonia caused by COVID-19 infection.
The four main types include:
Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by a variety of different types of bacteria. It usually happens when the body has been weakened by illness, poor nutrition, or an impaired immune system. It is typically caused by pneumococci bacteria that are also responsible for ear infections, sinus infections, sepsis , and meningitis ( 24). You may also have an increased risk of pneumonia if you abuse alcohol or smoke cigarettes or cannabis (18). Certain medical conditions, immune-reducing medications, and even surgery can also increase the risk of bacterial or other pneumonia.
Viral types of pneumonia are caused by viruses as opposed to bacteria. Influenza causes about one-third of viral pneumonia infections (18). If you suspect you have viral pneumonia, it is important to rest and take care of yourself because it can develop into bacterial pneumonia.
Breathing, pain, or any issues that worsen or fail to improve should be medically evaluated to rule out other potentially serious conditions. This is especially important in a COVID-19 world, and also emphasizes the need for vaccinations.
There are now safe and effective vaccinations for COVID-19 readily available in the US that prevent COVID pneumonia, hospitalization, and severe disease (9). Additionally, there are existing vaccines recommended by the CDC to prevent bacterial pneumonia in children under 2 and persons over 65 (5). Antibiotics are not recommended for viral pneumonia, only bacterial ones. Speak to your provider if you have any health concerns or questions about vaccines.
Also known as “walking pneumonia,” Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria can cause damage to the lining of the respiratory system and is considered contagious if you are in close contact with someone who has it (25). Outbreaks of walking pneumonia are common in crowded places like schools, dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes, and hospitals.
These types of pneumonia are harder to diagnose through standard bacterial identification methods. They also can cause slightly different symptoms, appear differently in chest x-rays, or respond to antibiotics differently than the more typical types of pneumonia (26). Some atypical types can be caused by the following bacteria:
- Chlamydia pneumoniae – This is a type of bacteria that causes respiratory infections in children, that usually leads to mild pneumonia or bronchitis (3). Some people may be infected by this bacteria and have mild or no symptoms. Sometimes it is also referred to as Chlamydophila pneumoniae.
- Chlamydia psittaci – Also known as psittacosis, this bacteria is known for infecting birds, but it can sometimes be passed to people (27). It is important to follow good precautions while cleaning and handling birdcages to help avoid this infection. It can cause a mild respiratory illness or pneumonia in people.
- Legionella pneumophila – Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia to be infected with. It is caused by swallowing or inhaling small water droplets that contain legionella (28). Legionella occurs naturally in lakes and streams, but it becomes a health concern when it grows and spreads in building water systems, air conditioners, and hot tubs that are not properly maintained. According to the CDC, 1 out of 10 people with Legionnaire’s will die from it.
Research on Pneumonia and Cannabis Use
According to a report given at the 2020 CHEST Conference, COPD patients saw a 37.6% reduction in the odds of dying in the hospital in patients with cannabis use (29). In addition, the same COPD patients had an 11.8% lower risk of developing pneumonia.
Another recent study evaluated cannabis use with the risk of pneumonia in men with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that came with similar results as above. This study checked in with patients at regular six-month intervals over the course of 30 years. Self-reported cannabis smoking daily or weekly did not increase the risk for pneumonia in the control group that included participants without HIV (30). Patients with HIV saw a small increase in the risk of pneumonia, which researchers thought had to do with this group’s compromised immune system combined with the immune-suppressing effects of THC.
Note: Veriheal does not intend to give this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided on this page. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.