The increased stress and boredom caused by COVID-19 has pushed many people to smoke more marijuana. Many Americans believe weed could provide comfort but doctors warned that smoking it may increase the risk of catching the novel coronavirus.
Health experts said people can take other forms of cannabis but not through smoking. That is because of its effects that could give users irritated, inflamed lungs, making them more likely to experience severe complications if they contract COVID-19, Boston Globe reported.
The increased number of people smoking marijuana comes after some reports claimed hitting a joint could help block the coronavirus. But doctors said there is very little evidence supporting such effect of cannabis.
One of the persons who admitted to increasing her intake of marijuana while in quarantine is Shanita Penny from Baltimore. She used to travel across the country as a marijuana lobbyist.
When much of the country closed to control the COVID-19 outbreak, Penny said her pot consumption significantly increased.
“At the end of the third week, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I went through this ounce pretty quickly,’” the 38-year-old told Boston Globe. “Every day I was smoking a little bit more.”
Marijuana might have been helping Penny relax while surrounded by stressful events. However, doctors said smoking the drug can do more harm than good.
As the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains high, the health experts said people should stop smoking marijuana. There are safer ways to consume cannabis, such as through edibles or tinctures that will not affect the lungs.
“The research we do have suggests any inhalation of plant particles and other toxins does cause inflammation in the airways,” Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, said. “When a disease comes along like COVID-19 — a respiratory infection causing inflammation — it makes sense [that marijuana smokers] would have a higher risk of complications.”
Previous studies showed a link between heavy pot smoking and bronchitis or lung inflammation. Rizzo said COVID-19 could become harder to diagnose and treat in people with the lung condition.
Dr. Peter Grinspoon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, is another doctor who has been telling his patients to stop smoking marijuan as they seek relief or comfort. He suggested that people try other forms that don’t involve inhaling the drug, like low-grade edibles.
However, the health experts noted certain conditions would require people to smoke marijuana because of faster effects or due to problems in digesting edibles. People should contact their healthcare providers to discuss their conditions and risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.