Can THC Help Treat COVID-19 Complications?

Several studies are being done to test the effectiveness of THC can help to stop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) from complicating Covid-19 symptoms.

Researches Find THC Prevents ARDS in Laboratory Mice

  • Mice are being given THC by researchers at The University of South Carolina as an attempt to help prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • ARDS according to the Mayo Clinic is a condition in which fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, depriving other organs of oxygen.
  • Mice were given a toxin that triggers the immune response that causes ARDS 
  • Every single mouse who received THC survived, while those that did not died
  • All of the researchers cautioned that the promising preliminary results are not meant to encourage people to use cannabis to self-medicate for COVID-19 

According to The Daily Mail a growing body of research suggests cannabis could be used to help prevent and treat people with COVID-19. 

Several studies have been made at the University of South Carolina on laboratory mice which found that THC  (Tetrahydrocannabinol) the chemical that gives cannabis its psycho-active effect – could help prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). 

Researcher looking through a microscope doing research.
Scientists are studying THC in cannabis to see if it can be a viable treatment for Covid-19.

ARDS, according to the Mayo Clinic is a condition in which fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, depriving other organs of oxygen. This is one of the most common complications for patients with severe cases of coronavirus. It can lead to permanent pulmonary scarring or even death. 

Even though researchers say that the study is not complete, the study has shown that all the mice who received THC as treatment for a toxin introduced to them that causes ARDS, survived; while those that didn’t get the THC, died.

The scientists conducting the research cautioned that their work is not quite conclusive and stressed that they are not encouraging people to use cannabis to self-medicate for COVID-19.

My thoughts are that those of us who are already self-medicating with marijuana will probably continue and it will be interesting to see how many stoners are really getting sick from Covid. Iโ€™m not sure if anyone is tracking whether or not someone smokes pot when they are inflicted with Covid-19; but it should be one of the questions so scientists can continue to study whether or not cannabis can be helpful for carona virus patients.

There was a University of Miami study earlier in the year that Denise C. Vidot, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and a trained epidemiologist was quoted saying, โ€œThe global qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, though not uniform, all include individuals with compromised immune systems and other chronic health conditions. Therefore, this is a population that we cannot forget about in our joint effort to โ€˜flatten the curve.โ€ 

However, they said the preliminary research showed immense promise to treat complications in COVID-19 patients.

The Daily Mail also reports that Prakash Nagarkatti, who co-authored the USC studies, explained the research in an interview with The State in August. 

‘The underlying mechanism is your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your lungs and all your other organs,’ Nagarkatti said of ARDS.  

‘It’s like a car where you’re putting on a lot of accelerator, but the brakes aren’t working. Basically what’s going to happen is your car is going to crash because you can’t stop it. And that’s basically what’s happening with ARDS.’

Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti

ARDS has been known to strike in COVID-19 patients when their immune systems go into overdrive to fight the virus and begin attacking healthy cells.  

The USC studies found that the mind-altering chemical that makes cannabis so popular helps suppress the body’s immune response while also increasing healthy bacteria in the lungs.  

The promising results in laboratory mice is pushing researchers to start human trials to further examine the potential effectiveness of THC in fighting coronavirus. 

But Nagarkatti emphasized that his team’s research in no way advocates for people to use marijuana if they think they have coronavirus.

‘I just want to make sure our research is not interpreted as marijuana is good for COVID 19.’

Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti

‘If you start using THC early on it might worsen the effect because it suppresses the immune system.’ This does make me wonder however, if smoking pot for all these years may have decreased my chances of contracting the deadly virus or at least increase my chances of surviving.

The Daily Mail also reports that other studies have found evidence of cannabis’s potential effectiveness in treating the virus.  

They report that a study by researchers in Israel found that a specific terpene compound formulation in cannabis could also be used to prevent cytokine storm syndrome, an inflammatory response that can lead to fever, fatigue and vomiting in COVID-19 patients.  

Early results from that study, which was published in August, found that the terpene formulation was twice as effective in suppressing cytokine storms than Dexamethasone, a common corticosteroids treatment for inflammation. 

The article also talks about another study published by Canadian researchers in June found that a specific cultivar of cannabis could help block the virus from entering the body in the first place. 

Medcal marijuana green cross made out of buds
Medical marijuana is showing promising results in laboratory mice, to prevent ARDS in Covid patients.

The report says, ‘Similar to other respiratory pathogens, SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, with potential for aerosol and contact spread. It uses receptor-mediated entry into the human host via angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) that is expressed in lung tissue, as well as oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes, and the gastrointestinal tract,’ the study states. 

‘Modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may prove a plausible strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.’ 

The researchers said that their specific cultivar (strain) of cannabis targets those ACE2 receptors, potentially blocking the virus from taking hold in the body. 

While all of these studies mentioned above are still in their early stages, together they paint a promising picture of cannabis having a significant role in fighting this deadly global pandemic.

What I think

According to all of the information coming out now in regards to cannabis helping solve the Covid-19 pandemic, it all looks very promising. Itโ€™s too bad that researches up to this point cannabis research has been limited because of federal prohibition. If scientists had been studying marijuana for the past 50 years, imagine the kinds of therapies we might have available to us.

Again the researchers quoted above all say, โ€œDo not run out and start using cannabis as a self-medicating solution.โ€ For me, I am just going to keep smoking weed like I do everyday while STILL following the CDC guidelines and where my mask, wash my hands and stay socially distanced.

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