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Cannabis and COVID 19: What to Know

As COVID 19 continues to wreak havoc globally, many canna-consumers wonder whether cannabis affects the disease.

With cases rising and cannabis use becoming more popular, it makes sense that people want to know the impact this drug might have.

Cannabis use helps with various health issues. While it might not be the cure for COVID, it does have a substantial effect on the body.

In the past, cannabis users were thought of as hippies, and cannabis use was associated with being anti-war. But these days, the idea behind cannabis use stretches further, offering an alternative form of treatment for various health concerns.

Some even believe cannabis use can help with symptoms associated with COVID 19.

As with any drug, there is always a chance of side effects when using cannabis. However, using this plant as a potential treatment for various ailments offers enhanced benefits in terms of health and well-being.

For instance, medical marijuana can help reduce pain from chronic diseases and improve quality of life. Many individuals dealing with these issues continually seek cannabis for relief, but it doesn’t help with every situation.

So, what about cannabis and COVID 19? Is it a viable option to help cannabis users with the disease? Or does smoking cannabis increase one’s risk of a compromised immune system?

This article offers a systematic review of how cannabis impacts COVID 19 and how this could affect public health.

But first, for those who would like to learn about cannabis and COVID 19, here’s some additional insight.

Cannabis and COVID 19

cannabis buds for covid 19

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis has been used as a medicinal herb for many centuries. Its flowers are taken from the cannabis plant, which is native to Asia but can now be found growing naturally in various regions of the world.

The two main compounds extracted from cannabis are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These cannabinoids work by binding to specific receptors inside cells. This ultimately alters cell metabolism and induces a wide range of effects related to health.

THC from cannabis use produces psychoactive effects that generally make you feel high or euphoric when consumed. On the other hand, CBD counteracts these feelings and leaves cannabis users feeling relaxed yet mentally clear.

Cannabis for Recreational & Medical Use

Cannabis has been used for both medical and recreational purposes since it was discovered thousands of years ago. However, the plant remains a highly controversial topic for the current generation.

While some countries have legalized marijuana, others still consider it an illegal drug, especially when it comes to recreational use.

This plant has been used as a therapeutic herb in Eastern medicine since 1 A. D. However, there are risks associated with cannabis, just like any other substance.

Cannabis can be used to control nausea, vomiting, and pain. It’s also commonly thought to reduce anxiety and inflammation in specific individuals.

Aside from the medicinal uses for cannabis, people have been using this drug recreationally for thousands of years. According to various studies, it’s one of the world’s most widely used illegal drugs.

But it has medical applications, too. Some of which apply to SARS COV 2, or COVID 19.

cannabis and covid 19 virus

What is COVID 19?

COVID 19 is the common abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a respiratory condition characterized by pneumonia and inflammation in the lower airways.

This disease was first discovered following an outbreak in China in 2002. However, cases have been reported around the world, specifically among international travelers.

SARS is believed to be caused by a virus called coronavirus; however, it can also stem from bacteria or fungi that attack the lungs. It’s spread through airborne droplets of saliva or mucus when someone coughs, sneezes, talks, or even laughs.

The airborne route of transmission makes COVID 19 more difficult to control compared to other diseases like influenza, where there is no direct contact with people when it spreads. This disease impacts the respiratory system, and it’s most common among people living in more crowded areas like dormitories or hospitals.

Clinical Symptoms of COVID 19

COVID 19 has the world worried about its clinical symptoms. As more people spread the news about unsupported claims related to pandemic-related predictors, the need for peer-reviewed research expands.

Besides the crazy lockdown measures in place, we hear about the patients suffering at the later stages of COVID 19. These patients are well past the initial immune response, and many of them ignored the early stages of their COVID 19 infection.

The Early Stages of COVID 19

During the early stages of COVID 19, the patient typically experiences malaise, headaches, and fever. Later symptoms include respiratory issues, severe fatigue, and night sweats.

Unfortunately, this disease is so aggressive that most individuals do not know they have it until the later stages of infection. Unfortunately, these later stages represent a higher mortality rate for patients suffering from COVID 19.

The Later Severe Stages of COVID 19

Light Intolerance, Inflammation & Pain

A severe case of COVID 19 usually results in the inability to tolerate light. But increased pain from joint and muscle inflammation also makes this disease quite uncomfortable when it’s severe.


Some patients report an inability to sleep for more than 2 hours, as well. This results in an emergency situation for hospitalization as the body becomes more worn down.

A constant feeling of being run down is also quite common with SARS COV 2. But this isn’t the most worrisome of severe symptoms of COVID 19 patients.

Neurological Issues

Since the later stages of the disease include intense neurological symptoms, many COVID 19 patients become delusional and paranoid. COVID 19 patients may experience an increase in episodes of sudden, uncontrolled movements of their bodies.

Respiratory Failure

This disease is commonly characterized by a severe cough that leads to lung damage and discomfort, fatigue, weakness, and vomiting. This lung damage can cause difficulty breathing, which can ultimately lead to the deaths caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Respiratory failure is the most severe symptom of COVID 19 that medical professionals’ respondents reported. The lung damage can result in the need for a respirator among many COVID 19 patients.

Organ failure, particularly the lungs, in COVID 19 patients is the leading cause for concern in many countries. This has resulted in social distancing and lockdown measures being implemented globally.

These symptoms are only a few examples. COVID 19 will manifest in different ways for each individual infected. But many are curious about how cannabis consumption can impact the way the general population handles the pandemic.

So, we have to ask ourselves how smoking could exacerbate some of these symptoms. Does it worsen the disease? Will it cause complications? Or does it just mask symptoms while increasing the overall risk factors associated with COVID 19 infections?

And what about CBD treatment or THC treatment using consumption methods other than smoking? Can cannabis play a crucial role in lessening the impact of COVID 19?

girl smoking cannabis for covid 19

Does Cannabis Smoking Affect COVID 19?

Many cannabis consumers want to know if smoking cannabis will increase risk associated with the widespread disease COVID 19.

If you smoke cannabis, do you put yourself at risk for the same infection as others?

The majority of healthcare providers assume that cannabis use will increase one’s vulnerability to COVID 19. If you have read any research or literature on COVID, you know many physicians believe it’s only a matter of time before those who smoke cannabis can easily contract the virus.

However, there is no reason to panic. The truth is, COVID and cannabis use don’t always go hand-in-hand.

In fact, several studies suggest that cannabis can help with the most serious complication of COVID. So, it’s important for you to know why some believe this drug can actually improve your health.

Here’s how the most popular cannabinoids (THC and CBD) in cannabis affect the body normally:

THC Cannabis Products

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component in cannabis that affects the brain and other organs. The drug has strong medicinal properties, but it also alters one’s behavior due to its calming effects.

THC is commonly found in cannabis products, and daily users can build up a tolerance to it. Regardless of whether it’s in an e cigarette or cannabis flower in a joint, most serious complications from THC take weeks or months to appear.

When inhaled, THC travels through the body’s vascular system until it reaches specific locations called cannabinoid receptors. The drug binds to these locations and releases chemicals that relax the mind and body.

CBD Cannabis Products

There is plenty of evidence suggesting that cannabidiol (CBD) is a potent medicine that can treat various health complications. Most notably, CBD has shown success with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Research on cannabis also suggests that CBD might help individuals dealing with substance use disorders. However, studies have shown that cannabis products high in THC and CBD may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

So, how does this drug affect a COVID 19 patient? While there are conflicting studies about whether cannabis can cause COVID 19, most of the studies report that cannabis smokers have a lower chance of developing this disease.

man coughing while smoking cannabis

Cannabis & Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

ARDS is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the lungs don’t receive enough oxygen. If you have respiratory issues or spend time around someone with ARDS, it’s important to know the long-term effects of cannabis cannabinoid res use on this condition.

Many researchers believe that cannabis can reduce the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, COPD and ARDS are two different conditions.

Cannabis may also help individuals suffering from ARDS. But before we explain how cannabis could do so much good for a person with ARDS, it’s crucial to understand what this condition entails.

Symptoms of ARDS

Symptoms of ARDS include shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, low oxygen levels, and cough. But the most concerning symptom is how ARDS can affect breathing. Many patients describe it as feeling a sense of drowning or suffocation.

If left untreated, ARDS can result in death within hours or days. So, you shouldn’t wait to get medical help if symptoms surface.

Can Cannabis Help With ARDS?

While cannabis isn’t a miracle drug that will cure all ailments, there are several reasons why cannabis could help those with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The herb works on a cellular level to create anti-inflammatory effects by balancing chemicals in your body. These chemicals include TNF-alpha, which helps cannabinoids reduce the risk of asthma complications.

Cannabinoids can also help regulate your immune response and lower inflammation throughout your entire body. Additionally, cannabis can help your brain remain calm and focused in the midst of a medical emergency.

Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that mop up harmful free radicals in the body. Some believe that oxidative stress contributes to the development of ARDS, and cannabis might help slow or prevent this process.

Cannabis is also a bronchodilator, which means it helps expand airways and improves breathing. This is particularly helpful for those with chronic bronchitis and ARDS.

Even though smoking can damage lung tissue over time, the herb can still potentially help you if your lung tissue is severely compromised.

Of course, further analysis needs to be conducted on how cannabis affects ARDS. But many individuals have shared their success stories about using cannabis to treat this condition, and it’s reassuring to know the potential benefits of therapeutic cannabis.

lung epithelial cells

Lung Epithelial Cells & Cannabis

Lung epithelial cells are tough and responsible for protecting your lungs. They also help clean out harmful particles that can damage your airway.

However, the cells are sensitive to inflammation or oxidative stress. Because inflammation occurs when you smoke cannabis, this could pose a problem for someone with COVID 19.

The inflammation or oxidative stress that happens with cannabis drug administration could harm the lung epithelial cells.

However, studies report that cannabis smokers have a lower risk of developing respiratory disorders like COPD and asthma.

Studies are conflicting on whether the herb reduces or enhances the risk of lung cancer. But this is often because these studies haven’t taken tobacco use into account.

Most of these findings only address the long-term increased risk associated with using cannabis. But marijuana doesn’t always stay in your system for days after you smoke it.

Thus, the short-term effects may be different than long-term effects from heavy marijuana smoking over many years.

If you’re struggling with ARDS or if you’re worried about developing COVID 19 in the future, speak to your doctor to learn more about how using cannabis could help control symptoms.

At this point, there is more research needed before we can come to any conclusions about how smoking affects lung epithelial cells in those with COVID 19 gene mutations. While coronavirus disease isn’t currently treatable, cannabis may help those with a compromised immune system by reducing inflammation.

Marijuana isn’t for everyone, and you should avoid using it if you have other health problems or take other medications. With its various chemicals, the herb could have negative interactions with certain prescriptions.

Cannabis & Your Immune Response

The reason why cannabis and COVID 19 is such a hot topic at the moment – besides the fact that cannabis is making such progress with its legal status and COVID 19 is way past its early stages spreading globally – is how the herb impacts our immune systems. Cannabis can reduce inflammation in our bodies, and this could help prevent respiratory illnesses like COPD and asthma.

What is Inflammation?

In layman’s terms, inflammation is the body’s response to irritation or damage within its tissues. It can also be a part of your immune response when you have an infection such as the flu. When any of these things happen, pro-inflammatory cytokines are sent out into your body to start repairing damaged tissue.

But what are cytokines?

You may have heard of a cytokine storm. But a cytokine storm is different from what we’re talking about here. We’re referring to pro-inflammatory cytokines when we talk about inflammation and how it helps the body heal.

There are two types of pro-inflammatory cytokines: interleukins and chemokines. Both of these helps fight infection within your body, but they each have their own functions.

Interleukins work to slow down the infection. They also help make sure that your immune system’s response takes place in a controlled manner. For example, interleukin-17 turns on your immune cells’ ability to fight bacteria and viruses.

On the other hand, chemokines work by attracting certain types of immune cells to the infected area to fight off the invaders.

You may have heard of one type of chemokine that’s called CXCL10. This particular cytokine is responsible for recruiting macrophages and neutrophils during an infection in your body.

These immune cells work together to destroy any bacteria and viruses as they enter your body, and to help destroy any damaged cells that may not belong in your body.

CXCL10 is also responsible for recruiting other types of immune cells, like dendritic cells and natural killer T-cells, to the area of infection so they can start attacking bad bacteria and viruses as well.

Because these immune cells are working together to destroy invaders and damaged tissue, inflammation is one of the body’s ways to fight off an infection.

It’s also part of your immune system’s response when it works to repair any damage caused by a physical injury or trauma. For example, if you cut yourself with a knife while cooking, your immune system will send out pro-inflammatory cytokines to start the healing process.

If your injury isn’t too severe and you have a healthy immune system, an inflammatory response will kick in as soon as you cut yourself. But depending on how much damage there is within your body when you get injured, your pro-inflammatory cytokines may still cause swelling and pain for hours or even days after the injury.

Cytokines signal other immune cells for assistance with fighting off illness or foreign substances in the body. The inflammatory process involves chemical messengers that travel around the body through either blood vessels or lymphatic fluid.

The Role of Endocannabinoids in COVID 19

If you want to know how cannabis and COVID 19 are connected, we first need to understand how cannabis, COVID 19, and inflammatory immune responses work.


You may have heard of two types of chemicals that are produced within your body and travel throughout your nervous system: cannabinoids and endocannabinoids.

These chemical messengers are produced in the same way, but there’s a slight difference between them. Both molecules start out as compounds called fatty acids. But instead of being broken down for energy, they’re turned into compounds called “endocannabinoids.”

CBD is one of those endocannabinoids. Research has shown that this specific compound can benefit people with varying conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD, and more.

What does the research say about CBD and COVID 19?

A study published in 2017 looked at possible interactions between inflammation and CBD. The researchers found that CBD may affect the inflammatory response by inhibiting specific cytokines (chemokines, interleukins, and lymphotoxins).

The researchers also found that CBD is able to act independently of its effects on endocannabinoids. That means that it’s not dependent on cannabinoid receptors to produce anti-inflammatory benefits for users.

Because the study was only performed in vivo (with lab rats), further research will need to be done to make any real conclusions about what this could mean for people.

But there are already several studies suggesting huge potential for how medical marijuana could treat inflammation problems like arthritis while also helping pain relief without negative side effects, as well as anxiety relief with minimal risk.

Should I worry about cannabis use disorder?

While cannabis use disorder may be a risk, cannabis use doesn’t always mean you’ll have mental health problems. In fact, it’s only a very small percentage of cannabis users who find this potential treatment impacts their mental health.

Cannabis users consuming cannabis sativa extract and other concentrates may find they experience increased anxiety, paranoia, or even an acute psychotic episode. It’s also possible to consume too much THC or other cannabinoids and have a negative reaction.

And while some of these symptoms may produce feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety that can cause the user to make irrational choices at times, it typically doesn’t result in an actual use disorder.

For example, if you’re working up towards consuming more than ten milligrams (mg) per dose, it’s usually best to take frequent breaks and monitor how your body is responding to cannabis terpenes such as myrcene, pinene, linalool, limonene, and caryophyllene.

You should be able to feel when the effects are wearing off after taking smaller doses throughout your SARS COV 2 treatment.

Adolescent substance abuse is more commonly associated with mental health disorders. So, while cannabis use can be ideal for adults interested in minimizing their risk of COVID 19 symptoms, decreased cannabis consumption – or none at all – is recommended for youths.

More COVID Cannabis Considerations

The COVID-19 is still a crisis, and while you may be used to cannabis consumption daily, it’s best to consider a few changes in your methods. Here’s how you can safely consume cannabis during the pandemic:

Don’t share joints, pipes, vapes, or bongs.

A friend with weed is a friend indeed. Sharing is caring, but don’t share your smoking or vaping devices. If you want to share your buds, do so safely.

Give a friend a few nugs or buy them their own vape. Since COVID 19 spreads through respiratory droplets that are released from coughs, sneezes, and conversations, minimize your chance of spreading it by choosing alternative ways to share your buzz.

Use these tips to share pre-rolled joints:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before rolling up.
  • Wear your mask. While this isn’t a guarantee to stop the spread of COVID, it helps!
  • Don’t lick the joint seal. Instead, try a sponge and water. It’s the same moisture without the saliva, making this a more sanitary method.
  • Place joints in a plastic bag. This will reduce handling and keep the product as sanitary as possible.

If you receive a pre-rolled joint:

  • Use social distance, especially with lockdown measures in place.
  • Even daily users should wash hands before and after they smoke. Regardless of how often you consume, keep your hands clean to avoid the higher risk.

Smokers or vapers should:

  • Stay aware of the risks of smoking and vaping cannabis.
  • Minimize your cannabis smoking or vaping if possible. Try edibles on for size.
  • Don’t smoke or vape cannabis if you’re feeling sick.
  • Tinctures are also a good alternative to avoid products that impact lung health.
  • Don’t inhale deeply, and avoid holding your breath while consuming cannabis.
  • Try not to exceed 100 mg of THC at a time.

Cannabis Side Effects

While cannabis has a lot to offer for health, it doesn’t come without a set of side effects. Of course, the effects you experience and their severity will ultimately depend on your consumption method, frequency of use, and other variables.

Cannabis Sativa side effects tend to involve sleepiness, red eyes, increased appetite. Users may also experience psychotic episodes, anxiety attacks, and paranoia.

Sativa smokers might experience an increase in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), especially for those with low blood sugar levels or diabetes.

Strains like OG Kush, on the other hand, tend to create more of a “head high,” which can cause anxiety in some users.

Indica cannabis side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety. If you’re prone to anxiety attacks or panic attacks, it’s best to avoid Indica strains until your symptoms subside. This helps explain why strains like Afghan Kush and Mendo Purps do so well with insomnia.

While both Indica and Sativa strains can be beneficial for different health conditions, they also present unique side effects that you should keep in mind if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID 19 as your strain preference can alter the way symptoms present.

Most of these side effects are temporary and should go away after a day or two. If you experience them daily, you might want to scale back your consumption or reduce the amount of time you smoke.

How Long Do Side Effects Last?

The length of the side effects from cannabis use depends on a few variables: how much you’ve consumed, what strain you’re using, and how often you consume. For example, some users report feeling drowsy after smoking too much cannabis while others report experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.

Ultimately, it depends on your consumption method. For instance, if you took an edible, the high will last much longer than the buzz from a joint. Also, you’ll need to consider the dose. People respond differently to different products, too. So if you want to know how long the side effects last, it’s best to experiment yourself to determine an accurate answer.

Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

Daily cannabis users can experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop consuming or lessen their consumption.

Depression, irritability, sleeplessness, headaches, and chills are common withdrawal symptoms. But some less common symptoms include stomach pains, cannabis cravings, and diminished appetite.

If any of these symptoms become severe, speak with a medical professional. There could be an underlying issue that’s causing these symptoms. Equally important to know if that these symptoms can appear in up to one-third of regular cannabis consumers, which includes individuals consuming once or twice per month.

COVID 19 & Cannabis: The Takeaway

While there’s some indication that marijuana might be beneficial to those suffering from ARDS, it’s best not to experiment on yourself without professional guidance. We recommend speaking with an experienced medical professional who knows firsthand what it takes to care for patients suffering from ARDS.

Even though you might be tempted to use cannabis as a treatment for COVID, other drugs are available. However, if other drugs aren’t offering a substantial reduction in symptoms, cannabis could offer the relief you need to feel better.

We hope you’ve found this article to be helpful in understanding what it takes to treat ARDS with marijuana, and that the information has given you a better idea of how cannabis COVID 19 treatment can help patients with ARDS. If so, remember – there is no maximum dosage for your cannabis use when treating ARDS. You should have enough to make sure your symptoms are well-controlled without causing severe side effects.

Have any questions about COVID 19 and cannabis? Feel free to reach out to us directly at any time!

Have an urgent question for a medical professional? Make sure to contact a doctor!

Louis Levey
Louis Levey
Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about cannabis, sustainability, and helping businesses use content marketing and SEO to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


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