For older patients with COPD, the use of synthetic cannabinoids is by no means purely beneficial. On the contrary, a recent study found that the risk of death seems to be higher for them. In addition, the use of drugs increased the likelihood of hospitalisation with, amongst other things, pneumonia. The researchers also found that cannabinoids are not always contraindicated in COPD. In some cases, it might make sense to prescribe them, but they should only be used in a well-considered way in cases where people actually benefit from them. The general rule, however, is that lower doses are preferable to higher doses whenever possible.
Prescribing cannabinoids for COPD is not necessarily unusual. Doctors and patients hope that the drugs will help relieve breathlessness and pain, and they will also improve sleep problems. In short, people with breathing problems should benefit from the known active substance and at least gain some quality of life. This is only partly true and the positive effects could even be reversed by an increase in mortality. Researchers at the St. Michael Hospital of Unity Health in Toronto (Canada) have now found this out in a study.
Many disadvantages for patients
Synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to increase the risk of mortality in older COPD patients by up to 64 percent compared to patients who did not take these drugs. The study also found that patients who took higher doses of cannabinoids had an increased risk of hospitalisation for COPD or pneumonia.
“Cannabinoid drugs are increasingly used by older adults with COPD. It is therefore important that patients and doctors have a clear understanding of the side effect profile of these drugs,” said study leader Dr Nicholas Vozoris in an interview with press representatives.
The fact that the desired muscle-relaxing effect in particular can have dangerous effects should also be emphasised. Although this may initially relieve the agonizing shortness of breath, it also increases the risk of inhaling foreign bodies into the lungs.
COPD and cannabinoids: great caution is advised
Despite all the disturbing findings, Vozoris does not want the study results to be understood as a complete KO criterion for cannabinoids in COPD therapy:
“Our study results do not mean that cannabinoids should never be used in older adults with COPD. Rather, the results should be taken into account by patients and doctors when deciding for or against a prescription or use”.
There is also a very clear statement from Toronto: If cannabinoids are to be used at all for the dreaded and incurable lung disease, they should be used in the lowest possible dose.