Cannabis Use Amidst COVID-19

By Melissa Hutsell

Editor’s note: There are currently no officially recognized cures, vaccines, or effective treatments for COVID-19.

 

As the impact from the novel coronavirus continues to spread, so does misinformation about it. 

In response, officials in America are warning people of such falsehoods, including fake pop-up testing sites, un-approved testing kits and treatments.  

Among these claims is that cannabis can cure or prevent COVID-19. Such statements have caused mainstream outlets like The Washington Post to run headlines such as, ”No, Cannabis is not a Cure for COVID-19.”

A Cure?

Former NFL, Kyle Turley, believes cannabis can cure COVID-19, according to a LA Times report. As such, the professional football player turned canna-prenuer encouraged the use of his company’s CBD products to help “crush” coronavirus infections. 

In response, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued his company, Neuro XPF, a warning. 

In the letter, sent March 31st, the federal agencies found Neuro XPF’s statements to misleadingly represent CBD as a safe/effective treatment for COVID-19: 

  • “Crush Corona . . . While scientists around the world are working 24/7 to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, it will take many more months of testing before it’s approved and available. However, there’s something you can do right now to strengthen your immune system. Take CBD . . . CBD can help keep your immune system at the top of its game. . . We want everyone to take CBD and take advantage of its potential to help prepare your body to fight a coronavirus infection. So, we’re making all of our products more affordable.” 
  • “Crush Corona! Your best defense against the COVID-19 blitz starts with a strong immune system. It’s what protects your body from the everyday attacks of bacteria, viruses, parasites and a host of other nasties.”

Turley has since stepped down from his companies, which also include a chain of dispensaries. In the meantime, he continues to advocate that cannabis can stop the pandemic.

Cannabis as an Antiviral? 

Health and wellness drives cannabis consumption. More evidence shows that cannabinoids support immunology, and are beneficial for a wide range of conditions ranging from epilepsy to acne. But, the FDA prevents cannabis companies from making specific health claims about their products.

Aside from mounting research on cannabis; scientists do not yet know if the plant’s properties can defend against, or cure disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

But, existing research does show that cannabinoids have antiviral effects. One study, Cannabis and Viral Infections, conducted by Carol Shoshkes Reiss finds that cannabinoids have “profound impacts on virus-host interactions.”

Some of those interactions were beneficial. Others were detrimental. 

Specifically, Reiss found that cannabinoids were effective for certain viral infections, such as Borna disease virus (BDV), and Theiler’s murine encephalomyelocarditis virus-induced demyelinating disease (TMEV-IDD). In contrast, “cannabinoid treatment led to disease progression,” in the other viral infections, including hepatitis C and variations of the herpes virus. 

Their effect on infection has to do with inflammation. Cannabinoids are profound anti-inflammatories, Reiss explains. But, because inflammation is a central to the body’s ability to fight viruses—impairing it could be harmful.

Anecdotal Data

Cannabis is understudied. And the reality is that if Americans had waited for FDA approval… we’d still be waiting. Instead, advocates have armed themselves with anecdotal evidence

As of right now, there is little known about cannabis’ effect on COVID-19 symptoms, even anecdotally. 

There are cases, though. For instance, Emerald founder and CEO, Christina de Giovanni, took edibles while suffering from what was most likely the novel coronavirus in mid-March. By her account, effects made her brain, “feel psychedelic—and not in a good way.”

But there are others ways to use cannabis, including topicals and tinctures. It’s worth noting that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. Because the disease affects the lungs, smoking is not advised. In fact, health officials are urging Americans to quit smoking, as it may weaken chances of recovery from COVID-19.

Gathering Population-Based Data

This April, researchers at the University of Miami announced the start of a global study of the effects of the coronavirus on medical cannabis users, according to the university. 

The survey will be conducted electronically via a survey. It aims to gather “data on the mental and physical health” of cannabis users. Researchers will also explore, “potential changes in frequency, dose, and route of cannabis use patterns based on COVID-19-related closures and updates,” and “the sharing of inhaled cannabis products.”

Denise Vidot, leader of the study, told News@the U, “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that population-based data is vital to make informed decisions. So, we are combining our skills to do our part to provide that data.”

 

Emerald contributor since February 2016

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