New Study Reveals Potential Benefits of Cannabis for COVID-19 Patients

Years now after the height of the pandemic, a new study shows evidence of the benefits of cannabis for those who had COVID-19. According to the researcher’s conclusions, cannabis consumers affected by COVID-19 experienced “better outcomes and mortality” compared to non-consumers. The study, entitled “Exploring the Relationship Between Marijuana Smoking and Covid-19,” was announced at a meeting for the American College of Chest Physicians, which was held in Honolulu, Hawaii on Oct. 11. It was also published in the October issue of CHEST Journal.

Researchers noted that they analyzed data from the National Inpatient Sample, which is the largest publicly available collection of inpatient healthcare data—recording about seven million hospital visits per year. Researchers studied 322,214 patients over 18 years of age, with only 2,603 stating that they were cannabis consumers.

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Each cannabis-consuming patient was matched 1:1 with a non-consumer, as well as their “age, race, gender, and 17 other comorbidities including chronic lung disease.” The other comorbidities included obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus, which were more commonly found in non-users.

In these comparisons, cannabis users experienced a lowered rate of specific conditions. “On univariate analysis, marijuana users had significantly lower rates of intubation (6.8% vs 12%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (2.1% vs 6%), acute respiratory failure (25% vs 52.9%) and severe sepsis with multiorgan failure (5.8% vs 12%),” researchers explained. “They also had lower in-hospital cardiac arrest (1.2% vs 2.7%) and mortality (2.9% vs 13.5%).”

“Marijuana smokers had better outcomes and mortality compared to non-users,” researchers concluded. “The beneficial effect of marijuana use may be attributed to its potential to inhibit viral entry into cells and prevent the release of proinflammatory cytokines, thus mitigating cytokine release syndrome.”

These findings led researchers to add a note about these results, and the potential clinical implications. “The significant decrease in mortality and complications warrants further investigation of the association between marijuana use and COVID-19,” researchers added. “Our study highlights a topic of future research for larger trials especially considering the widespread use of marijuana.”

After the pandemic began, researchers’ inability to study cannabis freely as a way to help people suffering from COVID-19 became immediately apparent, due to the Schedule I status of cannabis. In July 2020, Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, Medical Director of the Dent Neurological Institute in Buffalo, New York, explained the need to reclassify cannabis. “It is my opinion that much of this lack of understanding stems from the lack of research that has been done on cannabis, which is rooted in marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government,” Mechtler said.

That same month, researchers at the University of Nebraska and Texas Biomedical Research Institute began a study to analyze how CBD could help treat deadly lung inflammation that’s often associated with COVID-19.

In July 2022, High Times interviewed Professor Richard Van Breeman from Oregon State’s College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute Global Hemp Innovation Center. Breeman shared about his research, which was initially published in January 2022, in relation to cannabis and its effects on SARS-CoV-2, which is the cause of COVID-19. “Our team discovered that cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) can bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. We also discovered that these compounds can block cell entry using live SARS-CoV-2,” Breemen said. “That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells.”

Another study published in August 2022 found that cannabis consumers experienced less severe COVID-19 symptoms, and improved clinical outcomes. “Consistent with known trends, active cannabis users were overall younger than non-users,” researchers wrote. “However, when adjusting for age these outcomes remained consistent. Even more, when adjusting for comorbid conditions, demographics and smoking history we found that cannabis users still had less severe disease progression compared to non-users.”

In that particular study, researchers reviewed the cases of 1,831 COVID-19 patients who required hospital admission. “While there was a trend toward improved survival in cannabis users, this was not statistically significant,” researchers explained. “To our knowledge, this is the first study looking at clinical outcomes of cannabis users hospitalized with COVID-19. Further studies, including prospective analyses, will help to better understand the relationship between cannabis and COVID-19 outcomes.”

In September 2022, cannabis was used by many to treat the symptoms of long COVID, although there is little research to support its efficacy. “It helps keep me focused or at least my mind off negative thoughts brought on by long COVID,” David, a patient and long COVID sufferer told High Times. For me, but much more so for my partner, it helps settle nausea. My partner literally wouldn’t be able to hold down the first meal of the day for a time without taking an edible to help settle their stomach. And sleep, oh do I enjoy actually getting to sleep again since becoming a heavier cannabis user.”

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