As the COVID-19 pandemic knocks on our nation’s doorstep, public health officials warn us that older adults, as well as those who are/have been immunocompromised, and people suffering from underlying medical conditions, are at ‘high risk’ if they contract the disease. 
There are other demographics that could end up particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, as the pathogen spreads. Among them are people who smoke or vape (either tobacco or cannabis) – as well as folks with substance use disorders. 
In comparison to the sick and the elderly, other at-risk demographics haven’t received nearly as much attention in mainstream information sources… but that doesn’t mean you have no cause for concern, as a cannabis smoker.
Drug Users Vulnerable to COVID-19
Dr. Nora Volkow – director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse – wrote in a blog post published last week:
“[T]he research community should be alert to the possibility that [COVID-19] could hit some populations with substance use disorders particularly hard,”
“When someone’s lungs are exposed to flu or other infections, the adverse effects [among those] smoking or vaping are much more serious than among people who do not smoke or vape,”
Be Aware of the Potential Risks of Your Inhalation
Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research, Control & Education at University of California, San Francisco, wrote in a blog post updated Tuesday:
“Vaping affects your lungs at every level. It affects the immune function in your nasal cavity by affecting cilia, which push[es] foreign things out … [T]he ability of your upper airways to clear viruses is compromised,”
People who smoke are generally at an increased risk of serious complications, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, when they have a severe infection. The odds of a COVID-19 case becoming more severe – and at the most extreme, leading to death – are reportedly 14 times higher among people who had a history of smoking, in comparison to those who did not smoke. The same study also found that those with a history of smoking had a 14% higher risk of developing pneumonia. 
A study examining 78 coronavirus-impacted patients in China indicated that those with a history of smoking had more severe symptoms. While no studies exist directly linking cannabis combustion to coronavirus symptoms, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness – an issue smoking only exacerbates. Because smoking and vaping can both be linked to lung inflammation, suppressed immunity, and increased risk of influenza and respiratory infections, some experts suspect those who consume cannabis using these methods could experience more severe symptoms of coronavirus.
The American CDC reports that young adults under age 44 are being hospitalised by COVID-19 at high proportions. Glantz wonders if the smoking and vaping epidemic has contributed to this.
“Some of my pulmonary [colleagues] have noted people under 30 [with COVID-19] ending up in hospitals – and a couple were [vape users],” Glantz said.
However, he said, there hasn’t been enough research or evidence to support whether there’s a link.
Professionals Also Voicing Concerns Over Other Drugs
Besides smoking and e-cigarettes, Volkow wrote that people who take MDMA, opioids and methamphetamine may be at risk for serious complications if they fall ill with COVID-19, due to the effects these drugs have on respiratory and pulmonary systems. 
MDMA suppresses your immune system for several weeks. Opioids slow breathing, and have already shown to increase mortality in people with respiratory diseases. Methamphetamine can produce significant pulmonary damage, since it binds heavily to pulmonary tissue. 
People with substance use disorders also rely on medical treatment that traditionally involves human interaction – which will prove challenging in the setting of wide-spread social distancing, and in the midst of a health system collapse. 
“At a time when people are looking to reduce risk, it’s very sensible to stop insulting your lungs,” Professor Glantz said.
The Best Ways to Get Stoned Safely In Self-Isolation
In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s important for medicinal and recreational cannabis users to reflect on suggestions from health professionals. 
It may serve some people to temporarily move away from smoking (and even vaping) cannabis as part of a daily routine. Wellbeing is a priority; it’s important for people to safeguard their health.  At the end of the day, it is up to individuals (with advice from their doctors) to make such decisions for themselves.
“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,”
– NORML Director Erik Altieri
Don’t fret, though – you can still use all that bud you have, even if smoking seems like a bad idea for you, right now. The best part is – you’re in “self-isolation”… which means technically, you could do nothing but get stoned as heck inside your house for weeks, and would still be doing everyone a solid. How good!
Why yes, of course – no need to inhale! Edibles are here to save the day – and our lungs. If you’ve never tried to make some bomb-ass, dank-ass tasty treats, now is certainly the time – we especially recommend this, if you’re a recreational user!
Easy Edibles: A Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Recipe by Chris
- 200 g quality (I use Lindt) dark chocolate (70%)
- 250 g cannabutter, unsalted
(read our guides on AVB and Cannabutter for more info!)
- 75 g fresh raspberries – optional
- 80 g sweet shredded coconut
- 80 g quality (I use Cadbury) cocoa powder
- 65 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 360 g caster sugar
- 4 large free-range eggs
- Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius.
- Line a 24cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
- Snap the chocolate into a large bowl. Add butter, place over a pan of simmering water, and stir regularly until melted.
- When it’s all melted, add a teaspoon of salt, and stir.
- Sift the cocoa powder and flour in a separate bowl. Add the baking powder, sugar and coconut – then, mix together.
- Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate and coconut mixture. Stir together well.
- Beat the eggs, then add to your mixture. Stir until you have a silky consistency.
- Pour the brownie mix into the baking tin, and pop the raspberries evenly on top of the mixture.
- Place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them – so, unlike cakes, you don’t necessarily want a skewer to come out clean – the brownies should be slightly springy on the outside, but still gooey in the middle.
- Allow your brownies to cool in a tray. Carefully transfer them to a large chopping board, and cut into chunky squares. These Brownies are delicious served with a dollop of crème fraîche, or Ice Cream!
Cannabis is available in concentrated oral form. If you rely upon precise dosage of cannabis for medicinal purposes, we recommend you explore your options in relation to tinctures, oils and other concentrates.
Seeking further information on how to source out orally-available cannabis products? Check out our guides to Oils, Whole Plant Extracts, and Concentrates!
Tips to Help You Avert Contamination
Apart from following the guidelines presented by the World Health Organisation – that is, maintain social distancing, don’t touch your face, wash your hands regularly, etc. – there are some other habitual actions relating to cannabis that you may want to think twice about. 
Yes, this technically does fall under ‘social distancing’ – but we thought this was worthy of reiteration.  You probably don’t need to show up to your mate’s house for a smoking session. Many people show up as asymptomatic, or otherwise are carriers for the virus, before they have shown any symptoms. 
Sharing a vape, joint or bong at this time could be all it takes for you to contract COVID-19 – and even if you’re likely to survive, there may be people in close contact with you that you would be putting at risk. It’s not always so simple – many people struggle to fend off this disease.
We know cannabis can feel like a highly communal activity… so if you’re itching for some interaction, and absolutely feel the pressing need to ‘sesh’ with others, try setting up a ZOOM or Skype call with your friends! 
Frequently Clean Your Piece With Isopropyl Alcohol
A bottle of this stuff is all you need to make sure that your bong remains disinfected.
Don’t Share Your Stash
It may not be the best idea to share your stash right now, either. Scientists have discovered that coronavirus can survive on certain surfaces for over 24 hours. The US Food and Drug Administration says coronavirus is not food-borne.
But – if a person who is sick sneezes or coughs on anything – from bud to a pipe, the virus can be spread. Social distancing should apply to anyone who has access to your product. 
Exercise Caution With Your Dealer/s
Encourage your cannabis dealer to practice hygiene when handling your product. Perhaps you can even nag them to establish contactless forms of delivery for customers who request it. This is another point of contact – and like any other, you want to minimise the risk of transmission as much as possible, so we can FLATTEN DAT CURVE.