In March 2021, when COVID-19 cases hit highs of 114 million globally, governments and the global health sector warranted immediate response measures that included lockdowns, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of the virus. Restrictions to everyday routines, business closures, social engagements, and travel bans affected individuals across the globe. Even as economies opened up in the last quarter of 2020, things are not yet back to normal as new virus variants continue to emerge. Even with the invention of the vaccine by various institutions globally, researchers are still looking into the different treatment options, including reviewing existing drugs and inventing new ones. One of the most controversial debates, yet one that has dominated the global sphere, is the use of cannabis in the treatment of COVID-19.
Studies Supporting Cannabis as a Potential Cure for COVID-19
Early research from different institutions in the US and other parts of the world has shown some promise in integrating the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis in the invention of drugs that will treat the disease. Although there are vaccines developed to reduce the risk of infection, cannabis is being sought as it is a naturally occurring compound. Research published in the Journal of Natural Products has sparked the national conversation that could see increased funding by Biden’s administration to advance research about cannabis being used as a cure for COVID-19. The hypothesis behind the study is that the deaths arising from the virus occur primarily due to the immune system being overly reactive. When the body has a reactively immune system, especially in severe cased of COVID, the resulting inflammations harm the cells and tissues in the lungs where respiratory failure occurs.
Oregon University commenced a study that shows the potential of using cannabis compounds that can prevent the spread of coronavirus. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) are the two compounds found to bind with the coronavirus and can be used to block its progression stages for COVID19. In lab tests on alpha and beta variants of the virus, both compounds appeared to hinder the virus’s ability to infect human cells. Another study in the Journal of Neuro-immune Pharmacology found that cannabinoids help treat mental health and neurological complications associated with COVID-19.
Recent research published in Aging shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis can significantly improve the condition of COVID-109patients by reducing cytokine storm and protecting lung tissues from inflammations.
Understanding COVID-19 and Its Interaction with Cannabis
Coronavirus disease is an acute resolved disease resulting from infection by SARS-CoV-2. The virus uses its spiky surface proteins to hold on to the receptors of healthy cells, particularly those found in the lungs. The viral proteins distinctively go through ACE 2 receptors, making their way through the system until they seize and kill healthy cells. Progression of the disease is often characterized by a two-phase response by the immune system. Adaptive immune response measures are required during the first phase to slow down the progression of the disease to severe stages. Early studies from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are recommending further research into the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD as a potential treatment for lung inflammation caused by the coronavirus.
COVID-19 affects the entire respiratory system, including the mouth, throat, nose, throat, and lungs. Since the lower airways contain higher ACE3 receptors than the other airways in the respiratory tract, the virus can attack the lower airways more severely than any other respiratory disease. About 80% of the infected persons experience cough and fever while the others experience severe symptoms like shortness of breath leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome.
CBD, extracted from hemp and cannabis plants, similar to other cannabinoids, works by attaching to specific receptors. The human body produces its cannabinoids but also produces CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors in the brain are concerned with key body functions, including coordination and movement, appetite, moods, memory, and pain. THC components attach to these receptors hence their effect on the aforementioned bodily functions. CB2 receptors are mainly concerned with the immune system and affect pain and inflammations. Since CBD acids contain THC, hence they attach to CB2 receptors to reduce pains and inflammations in the body. By binding to the COVID-19 virus, it will not bind to human cells hence will not infect people. Cell therapy treatment is also being sought as an innovative solution that uses CBD-loaded exosomes to treat COVID-19. The technology intends to target the CNS and coronavirus.
5 Surprising Facts About Cannabis in the Age of COVID-19
Cannabis Treats COVID-19 Symptoms
The endocannabinoid system specializes in many bodily functions, including regulating sleep, appetite, and pain. COVID-19 has been associated with musculoskeletal pain, mainly because patients stay indoors to lower the spread of the virus. While the symptoms may vary between individuals, some people may experience severe shoulder and arm problems with a combination of pain, stiffness, numbness in the arms, and weakness in some muscles.
Cannabis helps in reducing chronic pain by affecting the ECS receptor activity and blocking the absorption of anandamide, a pain regulator, thereby reducing pain sensitivity. Since most painkillers are known to have numerous side effects, cannabis extracts are being recommended as chronic pain relievers since they have no side effects. It can significantly increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces pain relief.
Reduces Lung Inflammations
One of the primary biological processes that occur to people who suffer acute respiratory distress cases as a result of COVID19 is the cytokine storm. This is a situation where the body experiences an extreme increase in proinflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are a category of protein peptides important for cell signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis. Cytokines are produced throughout the body by cells of diverse embryological origins.
TNFa and IL-6 cytokines are believed to be the ones most likely responsible for the increasing severity of the COVID-19 disease. Since COVID-19 patients suffer from lung fibrosis, a serious and untreatable condition that damages lung tissues making it more difficult for patients to breathe. A substance that would stop the cytokine storm would be able to suppress inflammation and prevent lung fibrosis.
THC and CBD extracts can alter the body’s inflammatory response and help avert inflammatory damage done to tissues and organs. CBD regulates the exact same inflammatory proteins responsible for the damage caused by COVID -19.
Alternative Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is at the forefront of the many health concerns addressed during the pandemic. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic’s progression, its widespread economic consequences, safety mandates, disruptions to normal living schedules, increased time spent alone, and of course, the possibility of contracting the disease itself have negatively affected mental health, with no certain ending in sight. Social anxiety disorders increased during the pandemic. In fact, since the coronavirus outbreak, approximately 26.19 % of cannabis users in the United States reported consuming anxiety relief supplements and finding that weed is more effective.
Preliminary and pre-clinical trials from humans have shown cannabis products to contain anxiolytic effects that help lower serotonin hormone in people who suffer from anxiety, fear, and depression. In states where marijuana is legalized, state policymakers appeared to have recognized the need for medicinal marijuana during the pandemic. All states allowed marijuana dispensaries to stay open throughout the pandemic. Dispensaries in Las Vegas, both medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries, remained open at least for curbside pick-up. If you test positive for the new omicron variant while in the strip, use the Las Vegas dispensary delivery services to get your gummies and oils to improve your health as you recover from the virus. Surprisingly, you can now get your vaccine at any dispensary in Las Vegas.
Stay at home and quarantine orders reduced access to the healthcare services necessary to obtain conventional treatment for mental health disorders. As states allowed dispensaries to remain open, there was easy access to cannabis which allowed individuals suffering from COVID-induced anxiety and stress to obtain treatment when they otherwise would have remained untreated. This disparity in access to conventional healthcare relative to cannabis may have long-term public health consequences if it increases the substitution of cannabis for conventional treatment of anxiety-related disorders.
Before the spread of COVID-19, most people worked in the office set up, which had minimal distractions. Remote work became popular during the pandemic, with 66% of employees in the US working remotely. Working from home is a challenge due to the numerous distractions, including kids, pets, and friends. To remain productive, most people take up to 4 cups of coffee to stay productive and efficient throughout the day. As an alternative to coffee, CBD has various benefits that improve your mental state by:
Reduces motivational dysfunction: CBDA, a compound found in cannabis and hemp, may reduce motivational dysfunction by activating the 5-HT1A receptor and elevations in ECB tone. With a majority of remote workers already facing fatigue from working indoors combined with more monotonous work days, extra motivation can be key to boosting productivity.
Improves cognitive performance: CBD has neurological benefits and improves neural pathways that help improve cognitive processes. Like any other cognitive drug, cannabis contains neotropic benefits that may improve healthy individuals’ memory, creativity, and motivation. If you feel some lag in your brainpower during quarantine, adding CBD to your daily routine could be a safe, natural way to improve cognitive performance.
Reduces stress: In addition to the soothing physical benefit, taking CBD products like gummies and CBD oils as you work can also be relaxing on the mind. Cannabinoids produced in our bodies (endocannabinoids) help regulate several functions of the body and bind to specific brain receptors that produce serotonin, a chemical known to improve mood and reduce stress levels. CBD can help reduce the added stresses within the home environment made worse by noisy kids, pets, and neighbors, in addition to the long working hours.
At a time when depression cases are on the rise due to the effects of COVID-19, people need activities that will boost their mood and keep them happy to reduce depression and suicide cases. The anandamide neurotransmitter within the brain is stimulated to help us feel pleasure. The chemical plays a significant role in primary bodily functions, including fertilization, motivation, digestion, and cognitive reasoning. Due to its role in the neurogenesis process of forming new cells, anandamide acts as an antidepressant agent. Vaping and ingesting THC present stimulated neurons within the brain, creating a sense of bliss.
In addition, dopamine, a chemical in the brain responsible for pleasure, is stimulated by THC and CBD. The state of bliss and lightheartedness can last over a long period, thus helping to stabilize moods. By controlling neurotransmitters, cannabis can help people manage mood swings and emotions that may result in depression. Overall, this improves your outlook and allows you to live a better quality of life.
Risk Factors of Smoking Weed with a COVID-19 Infection
While most people prefer to inhale the smoke of cannabis flowers, smoking increases the risk of lung fibrosis for COVID-19 patients. It is essential to explore other ways of consuming cannabis, for instance, through topical application, ingesting nasal sprays, gummies, mouthwashes, and throat gargling liquids. Your best Vegas dispensary should have a variety of CBD extract products that will have similar effects as smoking.
Improving Further Research on Cannabis and COVID-19
Although most studies are at the infant stage, companies currently developing therapies and tests for COVID-19 will benefit from increased funding opportunities and streamlined FDA approvals for treatment options for COVID19. Such permissions for COVID-19 may make it more likely that these medicines will be approved for an expanded set of conditions even after the pandemic. To further encourage the innovative trend and bolster the trust of consumers and medical practitioners, more research is required socially on products that do not involve vaping and smoking, as this increases the severity of COVID-19.
Since the pandemic might continue to develop new variants as already experienced with Delta and Omicron, more academic and clinical research is required in the field. Considering there are no federal laws that unify cannabis law in the country, it is surprising that the government is willing to fund research in the area.