SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes the disease called COVID-19 (an abbreviation of coronavirus disease 2019), appears to be brand new. This strain of the virus has never circulated through the population before. Because of this, epidemiologists, health researchers, and doctors are still learning exactly how this virus works and what factors affect it. We don’t yet know exactly what the danger of smoking to lung function might be in a person affected by COVID-19. Early data suggest that smokers of marijuana, tobacco, and vape products do experience more severe symptoms and worse outcomes than nonsmokers.
What evidence is there to suggest that smokers experience poorer outcomes to COVID-19 than nonsmokers?
While COVID-19 remains in circulation, new studies will emerge as scientists have more data to work with. Even in these early stages, however, there appears to be a strong correlation between patients who smoke regularly and patients who suffer from severe or critical complications of COVID-19. The CDC has officially listed smokers as a group likely to be immunocompromised and at higher risk for complications and death from COVID-19.
These studies highlight the increased risk:
- The New England Journal of Medicine reports that smokers had 2.4 times higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 compared to nonsmokers.
- Cell advises that smoking increases the amount of ACE-2 receptors in the lungs. This is important because SARS-CoV-2 binds to ACE-2 receptors.
What effect does smoking marijuana, tobacco, or vape products have on the lungs?
Most people understand that smoking tobacco cigarettes carry risks of bronchitis, lung cancer, lung irritation, and lasting damage. Surprisingly, many proponents of marijuana and vape products argue that those risks occur only with smoking tobacco cigarettes, and not with marijuana or vapes.
That assumption is dangerous and incorrect, even during normal times. In the time of COVID-19, however, understanding that vaping and using marijuana do carry similar risks is of the utmost importance.
Smoke, regardless of its origin (marijuana, tobacco cigarettes, or even smoke from a regular fire), irritates the lungs and contains carcinogens. Vaping or smoking marijuana can lead to chronic wheezing, coughing, and bronchitis as a result of damage to the cells in the lungs and bronchial tubes.
Not only that, but marijuana “can also affect the immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease, especially for those whose immune systems are already weakened from immunosuppressive drugs or diseases.” Consider the impact a weakened immune system would have on a COVID-19 patient with lung damage from years of smoking.
Several studies back up these findings:
- THC increased the viral load of influenza in mice and reduced the ability of the immune system to fight off influenza. While COVID-19 and influenza are two separate illnesses, they share many similar features.
- Chronic smoking of marijuana may cause bronchitis and other lung problems.
- The American Lung Association, Harvard Health, and The CDC all list a wide array of lung complications associated with vaping.
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What can you do to reduce or eliminate the danger of smoking to lung function during a COVID-19 outbreak?
The American Lung Association states that the simplest way to improve lung function and increase your odds of beating COVID-19 is to quit smoking entirely.
Some people rely on marijuana as a method of relieving chronic pain or coping with severe nausea from other illnesses. In cases like these, the use of edibles may be an option to keep up with a medicinal dosage without impairing lung function. Keep in mind, however, that edibles come with their own set of risks. They could still result in a weakened immune system and may require you to adjust your dosage or timing of consumption.
Need Help Quitting? Contact Ocean Hills Recovery today
We understand that getting off of marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs that could harm your health isn’t as simple as “just quitting” as the doctors suggest. If you are struggling with an addiction, especially if you are already in a higher-risk group for COVID-19, Ocean Hills can help.
We offer a state-of-the-art facility in a beautiful California setting. We have comprehensive recovery options ranging from detox to outpatient and intensive hospitalization, depending on your needs and preferences.
You’ll have access to:
- Licensed Psychiatrists and Psychologists experienced with substance abuse disorders
- Medically supervised detox
- Group and individual therapy
- Assistance with developing necessary life skills to move past your addiction forever
You will never have to face your addiction alone again. Contact Ocean Hills Recovery today or fill out our contact form for more information.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.