If you’re a stoner, you’d well know the cravings associated with just wanting that one smoke. If you assume a lecture about the whys and the why not of smoking cannabis, is going to follow, that’s not the plan. While cannabis does have its immense set of benefits and while some days it is the only thing that really makes you want to get out of bed, should you be smoking cannabis right now? Let’s rephrase. During a global pandemic, where the world is fighting an enemy that attacks the lungs and leaves them feeling like shards of glass, should you be weakening them further with smoke?
Why smoking during the pandemic isn’t advisable
Whether during a pandemic or not, let’s face it. Smoking isn’t great for your lungs. It may make you feel all happy and care-free, but what’s happening to your breathing bags is a totally different story. Experts say that “Whether you’re smoking tobacco, cannabis or vaping, you’re introducing foreign elements down deep into the lungs. If you do a lot of it, you have more risk of a sustained injury with less of a chance for the lungs to recuperate and heal themselves over.”
The lungs comprise of pneumocytes. These are cells that provide support to the lungs in terms of fighting off infection and strengthening them. Smoking essentially damages these cells, by binding to them and making the lungs vulnerable to infection.
If you’re into illicit cannabis vapes, which have not been tested legally, you’re in for more damage. These illicit vapes are often contaminated with vitamin E acetate, a chemical that can lead to respiratory illness and death. Many patients with the mysterious illness have wound up hospitalized in intensive care units, needing ventilators or even more desperate measures to help them breathe. Vitamin E acetate is sticky, like honey, and clings to lung tissue, the C.D.C. says. It is a common vitamin supplement in skin lotions and is sometimes added as a thickener to marijuana. However, when inhaled, this causes severe damage to the lungs as unlike the digestive system, the lungs do not have the enzymes to break these compounds.
“Anything that you could do to reduce the risk of lung injury, you should do. If you smoke anything and injure the lung in any way, you’re increasing the risk of the virus being able to penetrate deeper into the lung,” says Richard Castriotta, MD, pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine specialist at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Cannabis, while affecting the lungs has far-reaching effects on other systems too and this can compromise the body’s ability to vade off infection further.
Cannabis affects the immune system
Pot users are more susceptible to cancer compared to non-smokers. A new study suggests that marijuana has certain chemicals that fire up the body’s production of the suppressor cells of the immune system. Is the increase in their number bad? Well, yes. These cells are designed to suppress the body’s immune system and thus leave the body vulnerable to infection. "Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs of abuse worldwide, and it is already believed to suppress immune functions. This, making the user more susceptible to infections and some types of cancer," Prakash Nagarkatti, a microbiology and pathology professor at the University of South Carolina, said in a statement.
While there’s all this talk surrounding cannabis as a killer, some suggest cannabis could well be a cure or at least treatment for Covid19.
Cannabis as a treatment for Covid19?
A Canadian research endeavour suggests this might actually be a thing! A receptor called the ACE-2 receptor is found in cells of the body. When the Coronavirus enters into the body, this receptor serves as the entry point for the virus. When cannabis is inhaled or ingested, what it does is go and bind to this ACE-2 receptor and modify it. Thus, the receptor would no longer be able to bind to the virus and cause infection!
Another study suggests how cannabis can treat lung inflammation that is seen due to Covid19. Researchers explain that when the Coronavirus infects a person, the usual symptoms are fever, cough, muscle pain, and pneumonia which could further clog the lungs. All of this is due to IL-6 cytokine. This biomolecule is responsible for mucous collection and inflammation. Enter cannabis! The plant, as researchers discovered has cannabinoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can thus neutralise the effect of the IL-6 cytokine! However, these studies are still underway and no conclusive results have been obtained as yet. Maybe you need to wait before stocking up on weed as an excuse to evade the Coronavirus.