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Lung Health and Smoking Drugs

Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the...

Maintaining Lung Health, BP issue 14

HI again,

I just came across 2 very comprehensive websites with information that I wanted to pass on. In creating our current issue of Black Poppy, we had been researching information to kick off a series on Maintaining Lung Health. It was becoming very clear that more of our peers had been having obvious problems with their lungs. Over the years we had had many conversations with friends where we worryied about the state of our lungs – smoking pipe after pipe of the ol’ rocks, or chasing the brown on foil til the cows came home…Not to mention how many of us have also been heavy cigarette smokers as well as weed so it is no wonder really, that we had concerns about what was going on in our lungs. And from what I’ve seen lately with friends as they get older, that concern was well fairly well placed.

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the illness we decided to cover in the magazine this issue as it seems to be the one that’s cropping up more often and one I see affecting more people. COPD‘s really a general name for a group of 2 or 3 lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and bronchiectasis. A person will have 2 or more of these to get a diagnosis with COPD; like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, for example. People who have been heavy ciggy and drug smokers for years and are now getting nasty ‘smokers coughs’, finding it hard to breathe when walking or taking exercise,  coughing up gunk, losing weight, getting over tired…all these are symptoms of COPD. The older the drug using community get the more I fear we could see diseases like this take hold. Stopping smoking is of course the most important thing you can do, but it seems so often COPD is an illness getting overlooked. In fact it is generally not diagnosed rapidly enough in the ordinary population – let alone in people who use drugs. In fact, they say there are 2.4 million people in Britain who don’t realise they have COPD.

We know those regular visits to the Dr for the methadone prescription aren’t always the places where we get asked about our other health issues (unfortunately), and breathing or chest problems – which we often put down to ‘smoking too many fags’ just aren’t taken seriously enough but this is one of those illnesses where the sooner you get diagnosed the better your chances.

However, with a dear friend overdosing and dying last year, who was found to have emphysema that he didn’t know about, lung problems are actually now making us more vulnerable to overdose and death simply because of the reduced respiration.

It is important that we begin to educate ourselves and each other about our lung health – and lung architecture (fabulous word!). Apparently when we start getting symptoms that there is something wrong in our lungs as much as 50% of our lungs architecture can be damaged. Because the lungs don’t tend to show symptoms unless a lot of damage has already been done. So it really means that when we start having problems breathing, coughing, wheezing etc, we MUST take it to a Dr (who will listen) and tell them we are concerned about our lung function and ask for a lung function test (a very simple test which just involves you blowing into something) – and which takes no time at all.

Anyway, here is a couple of websites that I have found to have loads of useful information on COPD all in one place.We have also – as I mentioned –  heavily researched it for this issue of BP (no 14) and covered marijuana smoking and lung complaints as well, so worth a look. Cigarettes are clearly the main culprit here but the research on just how much smoking other drugs contributes to problems – is hard to gauge because the research itself is hard to gather. Smoking drugs, and injecting them can all contribute in a variety of ways to lung problems; there is a huge variation in what can happen to your lungs based on what drugs you use, and whether you smoke or inject them, and how you do it (depth of inhalation, how long you keep smoke in, how hot your pipe is, what you use to light your pipe etc how often you smoke and how much you use in frequency and amount) – which all contribute to whether it is an ongoing (chronic) or acute (pretty instant-ish) problem. BP will be sure to keep you posted – we aren’t into freaking people out about all the gross things that can happen if you take drugs, its more about providing the information for people who have been trying to figure out why they have certain symptoms, and whether their drug use could be impacting and if there’s new ways to take their drugs that will help lessen the negative effects. After all, we all wanna have fun, don’t we?

Symptoms of COPD click here

The whole website is here with loads of info on COPD (European resource)

An American site, again with a lot of collated info and good links called the COPD Foundation

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