Smoking Marijuana May Increase The Risk Of Complications From Coronavirus

Aaron Homer

Smoking marijuana, even occasionally, increases the user's risk of developing complications from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, CNN reports.

Millions of Americans have been using cannabis to de-stress during the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, in states with legal marijuana programs, such as Illinois, marijuana dispensaries have been deemed "essential" and have been allowed to stay open.

Unfortunately for millions of pot users, lighting up may not be the best idea while a deadly respiratory illness is going around.

Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, says that when you ingest burning plant matter into your lungs, whether it's tobacco or cannabis, your lungs get inflamed.

"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," he said.

There are other issues to consider as well. For example, Dr. Mitchell Glass, a pulmonologist and spokesperson for the American Lung Association, says that marijuana use may make it more complicated for a physician to diagnose the symptoms of a person who's in the hospital with respiratory issues.

"Do you really want to have a confounding variable if you need to see a doctor or a healthcare worker by saying, 'Oh, and by the way, I'm not a regular user of cannabis, but I decided to use cannabis to calm myself down,'" he says.

Further, Dr. Glass says that health care workers don't want to have to deal with patients whose mental states are altered.

"They want the person who's agreeing and giving informed consent to be completely in control of their thought processes," he said.

Over the past few years, more and more Americans have been turning to pot use, whether to treat the conditions that some advocates say cannabis helps, or simply for recreational use. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, pot use is going up among certain key demographics, such as senior citizens and women.

However, the jury is still out on whether or not more Americans are smoking pot, or if people who already smoked pot are smoking more during the coronavirus pandemic. There aren't consistent guidelines across the board for how each state reports its marijuana sales (in states where it's legal, of course) and/or use. Further, the issue is muddled due to the fact that CBD, a cannabis compound that doesn't produce a high in users, is legal in all 50 states. Therefore, states may be mixing CBD sales and use with that of its more potent cousin, THC, the cannabis compound that users ingest to get high.

"Who knows how many people are getting their hands on cannabis to relieve their anxiety during this time," Glass said.