Giving inhalers the cannabis treatment
There is no shortage of the types of products one can use these days to consume cannabis. As the industry grows, cannabis devices and accessories are becoming sleeker, more stylish, and tailored to fit diverse user needs. One such trend that has emerged over the past few years is the cannabis inhaler.
Those with asthma and other respiratory conditions will immediately recognize the metered-dose inhaler (MDI), a common device used to deliver bronchodilators (medications that relax muscles in the lungs).  MDIs are quite effective in treating asthma because they can quickly deliver medication in aerosol form; the devices are also portable, enabling use whenever and wherever needed. While MDIs were first introduced in the 1950s, they are still widely used today.
MDIs appeal to cannabis users who prefer alternative methods to smoking. Additionally, these devices can provide a more consistent dose of cannabis compared to many other methods. Dosing control is essential to predicting the effects of cannabis, which is of particular importance to patients, especially those who may be using cannabis for the first time. While the science behind cannabis dosing is quite complex and an issue that researchers are hotly pursuing, using an MDI may be more effective for medical cannabis patients than other methods.  But, what’s the difference between using an inhaler and vaporizing?
While vaporizing cannabis is a common choice for many users, it still requires heating the plant and inhaling vapors. With an inhaler, users feel a small mist of cannabis that covers the throat and lungs. With an MDI, there’s no exhalation, meaning that the entire dose of cannabis will stay in your body and get to work quickly for fast relief.
A few cannabis companies are currently producing inhalers but Syqe Medical – an Israeli company – was first to market this technology. In fact, Syqe has conducted clinical trials to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness, and pharmacokinetics (how a drug moves through the body) of the device and medication. A small Phase I study in eight chronic neuropathic pain patients found that the Syqe Inhaler Exo significantly reduced pain intensity by 45%; this analgesic effect kicked in 20 minutes after inhalation. 
Using the Syqe inhaler, a 15.1 milligram dose yields a 52.7% delivery of THC, compared to 20-37% through smoking and 22% during vaporization (using the Volcano vaporization technique). Additionally, the variability in Cmax (maximum concentration of a drug in the blood) between participants in the study was 25.3%, far lower than other cannabis consumption methods . Based on these data, this inhaler could be a good option for patients who need controlled dosing to manage chronic pain in a portable delivery system.
While Syqe has certainly led the way on inhalers for medical cannabis, a few other companies are not far behind. US-based Cannabis Science is planning to market a nebulized cannabis product for patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. And Revered Inc.’s live resin, terpene-infused aerosol inhaler, the Aeroinhaler, was recognized at Colorado’s annual Cannabis Business Awards in 2017 as the industry’s most successful technological innovation.
“The AeroInhaler is the future of cannabis,” said Edward Naylon, CEO, of Revered Inc. in a press release. “The device’s discrete, measured dose is a revolutionary way to consume [cannabis] extract.”
- Stein, S.W., Sheth, P., Hodson, P.D., Myrdal, P.B., “Advances in metered dose inhaler technology: hardware development”, AAPS PharmSciTech, 2013, Volume 15, pg. 326-38. (impact factor: 2.451; cited by: 56)
- MacCalluma, C.A., Russo, E.B., “Practical Considerations in Medical Cannabis Administration and Dosing”, European Journal of Internal Medicine, 2018, Volume 49, pg. 12-19. (impact factor: 3.282; cited by: 33)
- Eisenberg, E., Ogintz, M., Almog, S., “The Pharmacokinetics, Efficacy, Safety, and Ease of Use of a Novel Portable Metered-Dose Cannabis Inhaler in Patients With Chronic Neuropathic Pain: A Phase 1a Study”, Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, 2014, Volume 28, pg. 216-225. (impact factor: N/A; cited by: 42)