Smoking cannabis could worsen the effects of COVID-19 by irritating the respiratory system. However, some studies have found better outcomes for cannabis users hospitalized with COVID-19 than non-users.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the effects of cannabis on COVID-19 yet, as COVID-19 is still relatively new, but a number of studies have taken place to allow people to find out more.
Whether you want to know how smoking cannabis affects the body when you have COVID-19 or how to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus when smoking or vaping, keep reading.
There’s evidence that smoking cannabis or tobacco could increase your susceptibility to COVID-19 and worsen its symptoms.
At the same time, cannabis has immunomodulatory properties — it modifies immune system response — and this could help your body’s response against the virus.
Some healthcare professionals recommend that you stop smoking or vaping if you develop COVID-19 because it can irritate your respiratory system and increase the likelihood of developing more severe symptoms.
However, for people who have a higher tolerance or dependence on cannabis, this may not be a good idea due to the withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms might include the following:
- depression, anxiety, and irritability
- agitation and restlessness
- mood changes
- difficulty sleeping
- stomach pain
- reduced appetite
- cannabis cravings
Withdrawal symptoms tend to appear a day or 2 after you stop using cannabis, with symptoms likely to be strongest during the first week and typically disappearing
SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted through respiratory droplets released when you speak, sneeze, or cough, and when you touch smoking or vaping equipment that you might share.
Preparing your own cannabis can further reduce your risk of transmission compared to someone preparing it for you.
If you’re rolling a joint for others, or somebody else is rolling one for you, handwashing with soap and water or hand sanitizer and mask-wearing are ideal.
Likewise, it’s best to use a sponge and water to seal a joint or blunt rather than licking it. You may consider putting the joint or blunt in a plastic bag before you hand it over.
And in preliminary cell studies, some strains of cannabis have had a positive effect on SARS coronaviruses by affecting receptors on mouth, airway, and intestinal tissue.
It’s also worth considering that many cannabis users smoke tobacco alongside cannabis, and tobacco use can lead to more serious COVID-19 outcomes.
However, the results have not yet been published, and it’s unknown as to the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis on the body when you have long COVID.
That being said, some people with long COVID have said that it’s helped in easing their symptoms.
One symptom of long COVID is breathlessness, and smoking or vaping can irritate your airways and make you short of breath. So, in this respect, smoking or vaping cannabis may have a negative effect.
Are you more likely to develop COVID-19 or long COVID if you smoke or vape cannabis?
It’s thought that smoking cannabis can increase susceptibility to COVID-19. This is because inhaling cannabis smoke can disturb the respiratory system.
In turn, it could worsen the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19, too, potentially making complications like pneumonia more likely.
Something else to consider is the likelihood of transmitting the novel coronavirus through sharing joints and bongs, or having somebody else make a joint for you.
Are you more likely to develop COVID-19 or long COVID if you smoke cigarettes or vape nicotine?
Just as smoking cannabis may increase susceptibility to COVID-19, smoking tobacco may make you more likely to develop COVID-19.
Not only that but smoking tobacco could
Does smoking or vaping of any kind make COVID-19 symptoms worse?
Health experts recommend against smoking or vaping of any kind during COVID-19 infection since it can irritate the respiratory tracts and make COVID-19 symptoms worse.
While the evidence is sometimes conflicting, smoking or vaping cannabis (or tobacco) could make you more likely to contract COVID-19 and/or worsen the symptoms.
Quitting could help lower that risk, so if you’ve been thinking about quitting it could be an ideal time to start. If you’re thinking of quitting, there are helplines and apps that can offer support.
If you do smoke or vape cannabis, there are precautions you can take to lower the potential likelihood of COVID-19 infection or symptom severity, such as not sharing equipment, reducing the amount of use, or substituting for nonsmokable forms like edibles.
Adam England lives in the UK, and his work has appeared in a number of national and international publications. When he’s not working, he’s probably listening to live music.