Study Finds Cannabis Consumers Experienced Less Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

The Journal of Cannabis Research published a new study recently that claims that cannabis can help lessen COVID-19 symptoms. The study, “Cannabis consumption is associated with lower COVID-19 severity among hospitalized patients: a retrospective cohort analysis,” used data collected from two Los Angeles hospitals: Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center. A retrospective analysis found decreased severity of symptoms and improve clinical outcomes in relation to COVID-19 patients.

Researchers explained the importance of studying the relationship between cannabis and COVID-19. “In the USA in 2020, an estimated 17.9% of the population (49.6 million people) used cannabis during the past year,” researchers wrote. “Given the magnitude of COVID-19 and the prevalence of cannabis use in the USA, it is important to evaluate how active cannabis usage may affect clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients.”

Among the 1,831 patients whose cases were analyzed, all were 18 or older. Age among cannabis active consumers was a noteworthy consideration, due to the severity of symptoms experienced differently between young or old patients. “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.”

Cannabis’s unique properties warranted further examination from researchers. “Consistent with our understanding of how cannabis may play a role as an immunomodulator, non-cannabis users were found to have greater elevations in inflammatory biomarkers at the time of admission and during their hospital course,” researchers wrote in their discussion. According to the National Cancer Institute, an immunomodulatory agent is known to suppress the immune system, and assist the body in fighting cancer, infection, and other diseases.

Ultimately, researchers found that cannabis consumption was beneficial for some patients, but more research would be necessary to support that conclusion. “In this retrospective review of 1831 COVID-19 patients requiring hospital admission, current cannabis use was associated with decreased disease severity. This was demonstrated in lower NIH severity scores as well as less need for oxygen supplementation, ICU admission and mechanical ventilation,” they wrote. “While there was a trend toward improved survival in cannabis users, this was not statistically significant. 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.”

Numerous studies have examined cannabis’s role as an immunomodulatory agent in the past, and this study lends more evidence to support that claim.

High Times recently interviewed Richard Van Breemen, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Oregon State’s College of Pharmacy, as well as the Linus Pauling Institute Global Hemp Innovation Center in Corvallis, Oregon. SARS-CoV-2 is the cause of COVID-19, and Breemen discussed his team’s discovery. “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.”

Breeman and his team’s findings were originally published in the Journal of Natural Products earlier this year

At the time, this information was picked up in late night television shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Kimmel said “This would be interesting. All this time we’ve been listening to the CDC, we should have been eating CBD.” The Late Show with Stephen Colbert also took a stab at the news. “Great news for all the teenagers whose parents find weed in their room: ‘Oh, Mom, I see you found the Covid-stopping compounds that I hid in my sock drawer. Those aren’t mine. No, no. Those aren’t mine. I’m just holding them for my friend, Tony Fauci,’” Colbert described.

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