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Cannabis & Complications from COVID-19


Written by Sherry Verostko-Slazak, ANP-BC and Marlene Rogers, FNP-BC of Advanced Integrative Care

Even before recreational marijuana was legalized in New York State, the use of marijuana as a medical treatment has been recognized as an effective option amongst the alternative, holistic, and integrative health community. With growing credibility among traditional healthcare, studies about marijuana’s role in fighting disease are on the rise. Naturally, interest has turned to COVID-19. Even a year later, there is still so much to learn about COVID-19, its symptoms, residual effects, treatments, variants, and more.

As mentioned in the previous issue of CannaBuff, reports from the University of Lethbridge found that a number of different Cannabis Sativa extracts downregulated the expression of the SARS-CoV-2 host cell receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2). Researchers say these findings provide a foundation for further analyses of the effects cannabinoids may have on the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and other viral diseases where the ACE-2 receptor is involved.

“If these results are further confirmed, high-CBD cannabis extracts may be used to develop preventive strategies directed at lowering ACE-2 expression in high-risk gateway tissues.”
An additional study, conducted in the United States, showed that CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds inhibited infection with SARS-CoV-2 in human lung cells. Marsha Rosner, the study’s author, stated, “This study highlights CBD, and its active metabolite, 7-OH-CBD, as potential preventative agents and therapeutic treatments for SARS-CoV-2 when in the early stages of infection.” Other researchers from Michigan State University are interested in how cannabinoids might modify the immune response to reduce long-term lung inflammation triggered by the coronavirus.

Where Marijuana has Been Shown to be Effective:

Mental Health

Healthline reports that Nearly 20 percent of COVID-19 patients develop a mental health issue — like depression, anxiety, or dementia — within 3 months of diagnosis. Mental health issues are not only confined to those who’ve suffered from the virus, many people are distressed due to losing their jobs and access to healthcare, all while being cut off from direct contact with larger support networks such as friends and family. It is a perfect storm that can exacerbate mental health issues. In some cases, the emotional distress caused by the pandemic qualifies as trauma, more specifically PTSD—a qualifying condition recognized in New York State for treatment with medical marijuana. We have been treating patients suffering from PTSD with medical cannabis for years. We believe, like other treatments, medical cannabis is just one part of the treatment plan—a plan that includes scheduled follow-up, ongoing evaluation, and education. PTSD and depression are not the same, but as with PTSD, treatment of depression yields better results when cannabis is just one element of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Chronic Pain

On-going joint pain has been identified as another common symptom experienced after COVID-19 infection. Chronic joint pain also happens to be a qualifying condition for treatment with medical cannabis. THC resembles the cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in the body. When people ingest or inhale THC, it stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which in turn, activates the brain’s reward system and reduces pain levels. Advanced Integrative Care was launched, in part, because of our founder’s close experience with medical cannabis as a treatment solution for chronic pain resulting from an automobile accident.

Using Marijuana as Part of One’s Treatment Plan

We have no quarrel with one using marijuana for recreational pleasure. But when it comes to its application as medicine, we advise against a person consulting Dr. Google, experimenting, or asking a friend who has used it under a medical practitioner’s care. There are several moving parts to consider including consumption methods, dosage, personal attributes, and strains.
The fabulous news is that one need not go in alone. One is free to work with an experienced practitioner who can use their expertise to guide you through the treatment path, combining marijuana, monitoring, follow-up, and education to help you find symptom relief. Why experiment with trial and error when you don’t have to? Whether we like it or not, marijuana is still a drug—albeit a drug with many positive attributes. We are excited about marijuana’s rising legitimacy and the research, new opportunities, and applications it may hold.

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