COVID-19 & Marijuana: Why Smoking Weed Could Make Coronavirus Symptoms Worse

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If you smoke weed, you might be putting yourself at higher risk of suffering severe complications if you get infected with the novel coronavirus. Here’s why marijuana doesn’t go well with COVID-19.

Dr. Albert Rizzo, a pulmonologist and chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, explained to CNN why even occasional marijuana smoking can increase a person’s risk of suffering severe complications from COVID-19.

“What happens to your airways when you smoke cannabis is that it causes some degree of inflammation, very similar to bronchitis, very similar to the type of inflammation that cigarette smoking can cause,” he said. “Now you have some airway inflammation and you get an infection on top of it. So, yes, your chance of getting more complications is there.”

Here’s what you need to know:


Even Occasional Marijuana Smoking Can Hurt You if You Get Infected With COVID-19

People with chronic lung diseases, smokers, and others with moderate or severe asthma are at higher risk for getting seriously ill with coronavirus. But even occasional marijuana smokers are also putting themselves at higher risk for severe complications. This is largely because of how marijuana burns: when a person smokes a joint, they inhale unburnt plant material, which can irritate the lungs and make them more susceptible to a cough, American Lung Association spokesperson Dr. Mitchell Glass told CNN.

This makes it especially hard for a doctor to diagnose your symptoms, which could prevent them from detecting a coronavirus infection until a later stage.

Glass, a pulmonologist, told CNN, “COVID-19 is a pulmonary disease. … You don’t want to do anything that’s going to confound the ability of healthcare workers to make a rapid, accurate assessment of what’s going on with you.”


Vaping Isn’t Recommended, Either

What about vapes?

There has been widespread speculation about a potentially negative connection between vaping and severe complications from COVID-19. However, TIME noted in late March that there’s no directly proven connection between vaping rates and COVID-19 rates in young adults.

Still, plenty of studies have now proven that vaping can lead to lung damage, and the CDC says people with lung damage are at higher risk of experiencing severe and potentially fatal complications from COVID-19.

But there’s another reason smokers of any kind should take particular caution during this pandemic. Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, director of pediatric research at the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to The New York Times, “Quitting during this pandemic could not only save your life, but by preventing the need for your treatment in a hospital, you might also save someone else’s life.”

If you do choose to continue smoking throughout the pandemic, experts suggest you wash your hands as frequently as possible. This is particularly important for smokers, who are touching something (a cigarette, vape, or joint, for example) that then goes into their mouth.

Winickoff told The New York Times, “You bring this device or cigarette to your mouth to inhale and you do so repeatedly. You touch the cartridge. You put it next to your face. You are spreading whatever is in your hand into your body. At the same time, many of my patients who smoke or vape have increased coughing or expectorating. And that’s a recipe for increased spread.”

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