The novel coronavirus, called COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV2) has been in our lives for almost a year and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The United States alone has over 8 million cases and unfortunately, over 215,000 people have lost their lives. Earlier in the pandemic, there were rumors going around that alcohol may be helpful in fighting the pandemic. However, that myth was quickly debunked and it turns out alcohol may actually hurt your chances of fighting COVID-19. Weed users may be wondering if using weed could help or hurt their chances of fighting this deadly virus. Here is what science says.
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Should I Smoke Weed During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Many scientists are saying it’s not a great idea. Erick Kaufman, an internal medicine specialist and medical director for Doctors Of Cannabis was quoted on Cut.com warns against smoking if you already have an irritated respiratory tract. Coupled with a COVID-19 infection, it could cause a bad immune response which could be deadly. Kaufman said, “If you already have an underlying inflammation and irritability in your respiratory tract from use of cannabis, and then you get COVID-19 on top of that, it’s easier to get an overblown immune reaction.”
The article states that while there is evidence people who smoke tobacco have a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and doing poorly, the same evidence hasn’t been found for weed smokers. For example, we know that tobacco smoke increases ACE2 in the lungs which spells bad news for someone with coronavirus. All of that will explained later in the article. However, Matthew Springer, a professor of medicine and smoke researcher at UCSF said, given all the above facts, “It’s a reasonable presumption that smoking things will be bad in general.”
Can Smoking Weed Harm Others Around Me?
Kaufman believes that theoretically, you could be hurting others around you. He says that many people cough when they smoke and if they’re carrying the virus, whether they are showing symptoms or not, could spread the virus. According to the article, “it’s important for those who do smoke to consider the risks they may be exposing their partners, roommates, or other social isolation-mates to.”
What Are Ways Can I Consume Marijuana in the Pandemic?
Well, vapes aren’t great, according to Kaufman. He says there are other compounds found in vape pens such as “polyethylene glycol, PEG, and of course the vitamin E acetate” which may cause inflammation or injury. The article stated that vaping PAX, which is a dry flower should be easier on the lungs. However, Kaufman believes that we should avoid all inhalation of smoke. He says, “We should all be really protective of our respiratory tracts right now, so it’s probably not a good time to be doing any inhaling of cannabis if you can help it.”
To be clear. Kaufman isn’t suggesting that people don’t use weed in the pandemic. He is more concered about the method of delivery. Kaufman says there are many benefits to marijuana which may be helpful in a period of high stress such as this one. He is quoted in the article saying, “Cannabis can be helpful with pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, and anxiety”. Kaufman went on to say that getting sleep and keeping stress levels down are good for the immune system.
So how can you use cannabis safely? The article suggests that edibles may be a much safer alternative to smoking marijuana in the middle of the pandemic. The only warning Kaufman had was to be mindful of dosage and timing. Overdosing on edibles, the article said, may make people take trips to the ER and that should be avoided at a time like this.
Does Cannabis Hurt Your Immune System?
A Live Science article highlighted a study that concluded that marijuana may hurt your immune system. According to the article, mice that were injected with THC had more immune-suppressing cells than the mice that weren’t injected with THC. The article says, “The researchers found that marijuana triggered the production of a massive number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells — leading to immune suppression and cancer growth — by activating cells that respond to the cannabinoids found in marijuana”.
However, according to The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, “There is insufficient data to draw overarching conclusions concerning the effects of cannabis smoke or cannabinoids on immune competence.”
Can Cannabis Help You Fight the Coronavirus?
According to Health Europa, there is limited information about whether or not cannabinoids could help to prevent a coronavirus infection. However, the article did state that there was a study that examined the possibility of using cannabidiol (CBD) via mouthwashes and liquids for mouth gargling. The study examined whether cannabidiol (CBD) in those mediums would be able to lower or modulate ACE2 levels in high-risk tissues. COVID-19 uses receptor-mediated entry to enter the cells. ACE2, which stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme II, is the receptor that COVID-19 uses to enter the cells. According to the study, ACE2 is expressed in “lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract.” The idea is that CBD, could reduce the expression of the ACE2 thus decreasing the person’s susceptablity to COVID-19 infection. The study says, “The extracts of our most successful and novel high CBD C. sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy”.
The Health Europe article stated that ACE2 is very important to lung function and so modulation of ACE2 is paramount. It said, “Studies have found that ACE2 levels change during the progression of COVID-19 and therefore the ability to modulate these levels becomes particularly important as ACE2 has been shown to be essential for lung function in animal models of SARS viruses.”
Cannabis and Coronavirus Treatment
Cannabis is also researched to conclude whether it can be used to treat those already infected with COVID-19. According to a study that has been peer-reviewed, CBD could help reduce the cytokine storm that happens during a COVID-19 infection. According to Health Europa, cytokine storm refers to when “ too many cytokine proteins are released in the body: these proteins can attack the lungs and overwhelm the immune system with hyperinflammation.” Cytokine storms, according to a Forbes article, may cause nausea, difficulty breathing, inflammation, and even death. As Forbes pointed out, cytokines are very important to our immune response. When they increase inflammation as a response to infection, it actually helps fight off infections. However, in severe infections, Like COVID-19 can be, too many are released into the blood and that becomes a problem.
The study cited another study that found that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as well as CBD have been found to decrease lung inflammation in mice with acute lung injury. The cannabinoids were able to do that “potentially through the inhibition of proinflammatory cytokine production by immune cells and suppressing exuberant immune responses”. The study says that CBD could inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with “SARS-CoV2 induced multi-organ pathology and mortality.”
There was also a study undertaken on cells by Israeli cannabis R&D companies, Eybna and CannaSoul Analytics found that CBD and other anti-inflammatory terpenes could help fight COVID-19. The study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed was mentioned in a Forbes article and concluded that the CBD and the terpenes were able to reduce particular cytokines in severe COVID-19 cases. The study claimed that this cocktail of compounds did a better job than dexamethasone which is currently being used to reduce the mortality of patients on the ventilator.
It may be a great idea to find other ways of consuming marijuana during the pandemic. Thankfully, there are many ways you can use it to reap the many benefits you may need at this time. In addition to that, cannabinoids seem to be presenting a promising solution to some of the problems associated with COVID-19 and it’s worth keeping an eye on.