how smoking marijuana may affect coronavirus infections

how smoking marijuana may affect coronavirus infections

I am one of the many people that have become quite paranoid for my health as the U.S. buries itself in yet another wave of COVID-19 infections. (Can we even really call it a wave if we never “flattened the curve” to begin with?) Aside from the following practices:

  • Social distancing
  • Wearing a mask in public
  • Leaving the house for food only
  • Avoiding social gatherings
  • Sanitizing after every trip out to the store or somewhere else (sometimes even washing my groceries!)
  • Taking vitamins to support my immune system

I’m starting to wonder: What more can I do to protect myself from the ever-growing infection and death rates? Well, this viral disease is one that attacks the respiratory system, primarily. And what’s one thing in my life that could put my respiratory system at risk? Smoking weed.

So, can smoking marijuana increase your chances of catching coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.

What Coronavirus Does to the Body

Because the novel coronavirus is so new, research must still be completed to determine what precise effects it has on the body.

At the beginning of this epidemic, many of us were gravely mistaken at the severity of this illness. Since it is closely related to influenza in that it is a respiratory disease, many of us believed that the two would certainly be one and the same.

While they are both viruses that affect the respiratory system of the human body, the two have relatively little in common. There is some overlap in the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19; however, there is a much longer list of effects from the new virus, including:

  • Fever or chills
  • Difficulty breathing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Coughing
  • Muscle aches throughout the body
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion (or the opposite, a runny nose)
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

These symptoms tend to show up between 2-14 days (if the infected individual shows symptoms at all). This list is far from complete. For example, there is growing evidence that the disease has profound impacts on the nervous system as well.

Doctors have observed patients suffering from strokes and seizures, among other signs of “encephalopathy” (a catch-all term for “brain damage”). So what does any of this have to do with smoking marijuana?

Why You Should Switch to Edibles for a While

Smoking any substance, whether it be a cigarette or a joint, is an act that comes with the inherent risk of lung damage. Smoking marijuana, in particular, has been attributed to the development of respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis, for example.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has expanded on the possible link between the use of tobacco, waterpipes (hookahs or bongs), and e-cigs (or vapes) and the increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.

According to their information, data currently shows that a history of smoking increases the possibility of:

  • Being admitted to intensive care upon hospitalization
  • Requiring a ventilator if symptoms develop

While smoking marijuana does not increase your risk of catching the coronavirus – this is, instead, a risk associated with your behavior and exposure to potentially infected people – it does increase your chance of experiencing a more severe infection, and possibly, death. How?

No matter your intentions for smoking, let it be for leisure, or to support your mental health, the habit weakens your respiratory system.

Since, by making this choice, you are now at a higher risk of respiratory illness, this threat to your health is now compounded by possible COVID-19 symptoms. The two are essentially teaming up on you and making your body that much worse for wear.

So, what can you do to make yourself safer during this time? I, for one, will stop smoking now and will likely switch to edibles.

Many people in my position (those who smoke to combat symptoms of anxiety and depression) should follow suit, if possible. You will still get the THC or CBD needed for the desired effects while reducing the risk of the severe medical consequences of COVID-19.

See this article from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine for more.

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