As another spike in coronavirus cases overtakes most of the world, Americans are once again facing lockdown protocols and increasing worries regarding susceptibility. This time, we know a bit more about the virus — how it spreads and how it develops within the body — which has resulted in fewer hospitalizations and less intensive care requirements compared to overall case rate. Still, many people have many questions regarding what increases their risk for severe illness, particularly: How does marijuana use affect one’s risk?
The answer, as is true with most issues concerning COVID-19, is: It’s complicated. Read on to learn more about whether you should cut back on your cannabis habit over the next couple months.
For Some, It Helps
A not insignificant number of marijuana users across the United States partake in the good green herb primarily as a medical treatment. In truth, in most states, marijuana use is only permitted in a medical capacity approved by a patient’s doctor. Though some states like Oklahoma have more lenient medical cannabis policies that permit a greater number of residents access to the drug, the fact remains that many millions of Americans rely heavily on cannabis products for health and well-being. In these instances, it is most safe for users to continue their regular treatment regimen to avoid disruptions medical disruptions that might increase their COVID risk.
There are various medical benefits of marijuana that help patients maintain a strong defense against diseases like COVID. For example, those undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from a wasting illness as a result of AIDS or anorexia rely on THC to boost their appetite, which allows them to take in sufficient nutrients to keep their bodily systems — including the immune and cardiovascular systems — functioning as they should. Similarly, those who use suffer from chronic pain disorders often experience some degree of immune suppression, so THC and CBD can help strengthen their bodies against the virus’s attack.
Some states have raised the limits on medical marijuana purchases to allow those who need cannabis products for medical, sufficiently stocked up and reducing their exposure to public (read: COVID compromised) areas. Patients should look into options like curbside delivery and home delivery, which further keep them out of harm’s way. Additionally, it might be wise to transition to a non-inhalation-based method of cannabis use, like oils or tinctures which can be administered under the tongue. In this way, marijuana will keep users healthy without negatively impacting their COVID risk.
For Others, It Harms
Unfortunately, for some users, cannabis increases their susceptibility to serious disease as a result of COVID. One study found a correlation between cannabis use and COVID-19 infections, with cannabis users typically experiencing enhanced risk of greater disease.
Unfortunately, the study doesn’t reveal exactly why or how marijuana might make a user more susceptible. It could be that the drug lowers a user’s inhibitions, which makes it more likely that users will stray into public spaces and avoid safe practices like wearing a mask or washing their hands. It might also mean that the act of venturing into dispensaries to purchase marijuana goodies or the desire to share weed with friends is putting recreational users at risk.
It is possible that those who frequently smoke cannabis — as opposed to using it in alternate methods, like in edibles or topicals — are slightly weakening their respiratory systems in ways that allow the virus to take a stronger hold. Though some research has suggested that marijuana can improve respiratory function, inhaling combusted materials can cause damage over time, irritating and inflaming respiratory tissues. Though the connection between smoking weed and serious disease from COVID has not been studied, it might be prudent to shift to less risky methods of use or even vaping, which can be cleaner and safer than rolled marijuana or pipes.
As frustrating as it might be to lack information on what worsens the risk of serious disease from coronavirus, it is critical to remember that COVID-19 is only just over a year old, and the pandemic has only been raging for a matter of months. Other diseases, to include the flu, have ravaged mankind for centuries before scientists were able to understand their causes and effects, and though the recent spike in cases should be a cause for alarm — and a sign that you should stay at home this holiday season — it shouldn’t make you panic and change every aspect of your life. As long as you wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a safe distance from those outside your bubble, you should make it through the pandemic unscathed, using marijuana or not.