Experts Say: Smoking Weed Makes You More Susceptible to Coronavirus
With legal marijuana now available in states across the country, more Americans are toking up while they sit at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, experts are warning that blowing the ganja smoke can make individuals more prone to catching coronavirus.
“From China and Italy, we see people who developed COVID-19 and had underlying lung disease, [they] have more complications and die more often,” said Dr. Barry J. Make, a pulmonologist for National Jewish Health. “So this is the perfect time to stop smoking.”
Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist who serves as national spokesperson for the American Lung Association, notes that smoking marijuana has been known to kill lung cells. This could make it much more difficult for a smoker to recover from coronavirus than a non-smoker.
“A good portion of the world will be infected by [the coronavirus], but the level of severity of symptoms is going to depend on so many variables, from genetic components to just your overall preexisting conditions,” Galiatsatos said.
“From my standpoint, meshing [together] all of the variables that put in things that are not air into your lungs, I would view them all kind of in the same category,” he added.
Galiatsatos notes that cigarette smokers and vapers are also putting themselves at greater risk during the coronavirus pandemic by doing potential damage to their lungs.
“We know cigarettes and marijuana both cause cellular toxicity and changes in cellular metabolism and cellular behavior, so that would be a biologically plausible explanation to say if you got an infection from [COVID-19], you’re likely to have more dire symptoms,” he said – adding that smokers are more likely to catch pneumonia or have difficulty breathing.
Erik Altieri, the executive director of the pro-weed group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), suggests that marijuana users could smoking the drug during the pandemic and instead enjoy smokeless alternatives that are not harmful to the lungs.
“Individuals should consider that consuming hot smoke from combusted plant material can be an irritant to the respiratory system, especially for those currently showing symptoms,” Altieri said to Rolling Stone.
Galiatsatos noted that having strong lungs is the best way to fight off coronavirus and individuals should take precautions to ensure quality lung health.
“If you get the infection and you have good, healthy lungs that aren’t being combated every day by toxins, whether it’s from inhaled marijuana or inhaled combustible cigarettes or inhaled electronic cigarettes, you’re allowing your lungs to be at the best capacity they can to try and fight off this infection,” he said.
“I would plead with everyone to do what you can in a time like this. I know I’m a lung doctor and this is coming off very biased, but this virus will destroy this organ if it finds any susceptibility, so please keep that in mind,” he added.