COVID-19 becoming a global concern, has left the population with trying to increase their odds of being healthy and safe. All of us have been repeatedly informed about the precautionary measures that need to be taken in order to stop the spread of the pandemic, such as social distancing, sanitization etc.
However, specialists in the scientific and medical community have pointed out another precautionary measure that may be necessary to take – regarding the preferred use of cannabis during Pandemic.
There is indeed heavy association with community and sharing when we talk about the culture of pot in America. Yet, it is still advised even by the most prominent cannabis lobbying group, to not pass the joints or even hit them in the first place. With the recommendation of the CDC regarding social distancing, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has suggested to use cannabis without putting yourself or others, at any risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What’s wrong with smoking?
The SARS-CoV-2 typically attacks the lung cells of the infected person – preferably the lower respiratory tract. . Consequently, people with underlying respiratory problems – such as asthma, are advised to be more careful.
However, the main concern is cilia (parts of cells that are present in our lungs and respiratory tract, that aid in keeping our airways clear of any irritants such as dirt or mucus) since the COVID-19 attacks the lungs primarily. Chances of serious complications like secondary bacterial infections, would be increased if a person infected with COVID-19 has supposedly already burned all their cilia.
Hence, lungs with fewer cilia would hold less capability of being able to move irritants, viral particles, and bacteria up and out of the longs. Absence or decreased functionality of cilia will allow mucus to pool in the airways, as the cilia will be unable to move it up the lungs, allowing SARS-CoV-2 to make contact with and infect pulmonary epithelial cells. Any additional stress on the pulmonary system would only increase the person’s susceptibility to the SARS-CoV-2
Hence, it is understandable that the importance of this function should be taken seriously, when a severe respiratory virus is circulating. According to the Chinese Medical Journal, more severe symptoms of COVID-19 were experienced by people with a history of smoking. Hence, smoke inhalation could possibly contribute to more severe COVID-19 infection.
Hence, specialists are encouraging the use of edible cannabis during the spread of this global pandemic, especially if underlying health conditions are present such as – respiratory problems (asthma, COPD),heart problems (hypertension, diabetes), or immune deficiencies. They suggest that smoking is not advisable under the dangers of being infected with a severe respiratory virus. Additionally, with the availability of edibles, tinctures, cannabis can safely be used without causing any unnecessary irritation to the lungs.
Protecting your lungs from any sort of unwanted danger or irritant is important right now, such as combustive smoke, tobacco smoke, coal burning, stove burning, or any type of air pollution. Although, eliminating smoke exposure altogether is highly recommended, to give your lungs a much needed break.
However, while saving your respiratory organs from a respiratory virus is important, it is also necessary to not forget the other repeated precautionary measures that we are expected to take. Social distancing and self isolation are also incredibly important as directed by the CDC. Like any other item, sharing joints or even the favored edible cannabis, is highly discouraged, in order to stop the transmission of the COVID-19. Use of the various tools to smoke cannabis – including bongs, water pipes or vaping pens, are discouraged as well, and expected to be cleaned with disinfectant gel.
Researchers Warn About Associated Health Risks of Edible Cannabis
With the legalization of cannabis edibles in an increasing number of countries, medical experts are concerned and cautioning people about the possible health risks that consumers could be prone to, as well as their family members.
According to researchers, cannabis edibles are always associated with health risks. Additionally, the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis is being implemented in an increasing number of countries worldwide, with regions of the United States in the lead.
Authorities in Canada declared certain cannabis edibles- cannabis-infused foods, legal as of October 2019, making it the most recent example of legalization.
It was reported by recent Deloitte surveys, by respondents in Canada, regarding the eagerness of consumers to use edibles not just for recreational purposes, but also for a range of medical reasons, focusing on coping with anxiety and sleep disorders.
According to the statement of the Deloitte report based on the results of those surveys, current edible consumers claim to be more likely to buy premade cannabis edibles rather than making their own, mainly focusing on the convenience, according to 80% of current consumers.
However, a range of health risks is associated with edibles – both for first-time consumers who have never used cannabis before, and for some of their family members, and cohabitants, particularly children and pets.
A commentary that draws attention to these risks was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, by Jasleen Grewal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Loh, Ph.D. – from the University of Toronto in Canada.
They talked in their published paper about how edibles are comparatively viewed as a safer and more desirable alternative to smoked or vaped cannabis commonly, and how the physicians and general public should be aware of the associated risks with cannabis edibles.
One of the risks is the time taken for the effect of edibles – up to 4 hours, unlike smoked cannabis. Consequently, the delay may lead to an increase in dose by the consumer, leading to overconsumption which is a significant risk.
According to the authors, the effects of edible cannabis seem to last for 8 hours or even longer, lengthening the duration of impaired judgment and coordination experienced by the consumer, compared to inhaled cannabis.
The standard, state-approved dose of cannabis present in regulated edibles, is said to cause different effects in different individuals, due to the individualized sensitivity to the drug, as warned by the two researchers.
The specialists caution that overdose of edibles is possible even with lower concentrations of cannabis, causing people who have no previous experience of the drug, to be at more risk.
Another issue that followed was the appetizing forms that edibles would come in, such as candy or cookies, thus immediately appealing to children and household pets.
Older individuals are another group that could be vulnerable to the associated health risks of the consumption of cannabis edibles, as reported by researchers. The two authors have also cited data from the US regarding the effect on those belonging to at-risk groups, after the legalization of edibles.
According to the two authors, the state poison control had recorded a 70% increase in calls for accidental cannabis exposure in children from 2013 to 2017, after the legalization of cannabis edibles in Colorado. Furthermore, they wrote that more children than adults were treated for ingestion accidents, as reported by the studies of healthcare usage.
They further added that cannabis consumption – including edibles – has been reported to be linked to greater cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of hypertension-related falls, arrhythmia, and drug interactions.
Conclusively healthcare professionals are advised by Grewal and Loh, to make sure to offer satisfactory explanations to patients regarding the associated health risks and methods of prevention.
CBD and Sleep – What Researchers Have To Say
Humans are unable to function at peak emotional, physical, and mental levels with a lack of a good night’s sleep. Insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other ailments, can cause the person to seek over the counter prescription pharmaceuticals for relief. Consequently, options like cannabis are being explored for natural sleep aid.
A sizable uptick was prompted by the insurgence of CBD, in the number of preclinical and clinical studies that were focusing on CBD’s value in the treatment of a whole host of disorders. However, studies focusing on CBD and sleep specifically are limited.
Although THC has shown to have a sedative effect and reduces the time needed to fall asleep, the harmonized interaction between cannabis compounds might carry over to sleep.
While THC is a sedative, it has other useful sleep properties as well such as causing catalepsy. According to Dr. Dustin Sulak, the proven effectiveness of CBD might be the sole reduction of anxiety which allows relaxation and the continuation of the person’s natural sleep mechanism.
CBD has reported giving either a stimulating or calming effect, depending on the consumer, which raises ambiguity. Although little, but research indicates that higher doses of CBD cause a calming effect, while lower doses cause a stimulating effect. CBD had reported giving hypnotic-like effects in a 1977 animal study. However, the little research that has been performed, proves that the effectiveness of CBD is dependant on the person’s presence or absence of a normal sleep rhythm or sleep disorder.
CBD and REM sleep
Certain sleep anomalies that occur during REM sleep, have been found to be helped by CBD. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep are the two types of sleep. NREM sleep is progressed through a 90-minute cycle, which eventually leads up to a REM sleep, where dreaming occurs along with an increase in brain wave activity. Furthermore, memory is solidified in REM sleep.
Limb muscles temporarily paralyze during normal REM sleep, so that a person is unable to act out his dreams. People are able to flail and act out vivid and violent dreams, in Parkinson’s disease and REM behavior disorder. Doses of CBD ranging from 75 to 300 mg were shown to help such patients, according to a preliminary study. Sleep cycles are not altered and people seem to keep awake by low-dose CBD formulations. However, the benefits for circadian rhythm disorders and narcolepsy could be proven in the near future as it may help people stay awake during daylight hours.
Should CBD be used for sleep?
The effect of CBD is highly individualized due to the uniqueness of every individual’s body. Sulak explained how a person’s negative response to THC, would cause him to be reluctant in using CBD on the same person. Some patients have shown high sensitivity to THC, along with impairment in the morning. Sulak recommends CBD strains that contain high levels of myrcene.
According to Sulak, although CBD may prove beneficial for people with sleep disturbances, pragmatically designed clinical trials are still important, with a recommended algorithm type approach.
Sulak ensures the safety of CBD, hence claiming higher doses of 100 to 200 mg of CBD to be safe as well if lower doses of 10 to 50 mg prove ineffective.
A 2018 study, that wasn’t initially aimed at CBD’s effects on sleep, still demonstrated the safety of CBD at higher doses of 1500mg to 6000mg. Furthermore, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine had concluded in a 2017 report that despite the lack of specific CBD sleep studies, moderate evidence exists for the support of CBD to be proven effective to improve short-term sleep conditions.
Researchers Are Working On A New Cannabis Saliva Test For Impaired Drivers
Drivers who are intoxicated with alcohol, while driving, are often subjected to roadside stops, in the United States, where they are asked to take breathalyzer tests and would further have to go through stiff penalties if the alcohol content in their blood exceeds the legal limitations. However, there is no current test that exists, for cannabis intoxication.
Scientists have now reported that they are another step closer to the invention of a convenient saliva test that will measure the cannabis levels at roadside stops. American Chemical Society (ACS) SciMeeetings online platform, will be where the researchers will be presenting their results.
According to Shalini Prasad, Ph.D., who led the study, people usually tend to think that drunk driving is worse than driving after smoking cannabis and consider the latter to be relatively “safer”. However, she further explained how both substances can cause similar effects in the body such as slowed reaction time, diminished alertness, and reduced self-awareness.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in cannabis and constitutes impairment. However, the safe levels of THC in blood, unlike alcohol, have not been well characterized. According to Prasad, despite it being an emerging field, 1 to 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, is suggested by the preliminary clinical reports, to be considered a level of impairment.
The law enforcement agencies are focusing on how to keep the roads safe from high drivers, as more U.S states continue the decriminalization of cannabis. The blood tests for THC are time-consuming and invasive, despite the accuracy. Along with that, this is not a convenient test for many police officers to perform skillfully at roadside stops. Some researchers are working on a cannabis test that would be similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol, to measure THC levels in the breath.
However, according to Prasad, extensive and error-prone data processing would be required to filter out the effects of other compounds as the levels of THC are low in the breath. Consequently, focusing on the close correlation between saliva and blood, Prasad and colleagues aimed at the development of a saliva test for THC that would be simple, quick and accurate.
THC sensor strips and an electronic reader were engineered by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas. The sensor strips contained two electrodes and were coated with an antibody. The antibody binds with THC and isolates it from other compounds in the saliva. According to Prasad, the antibody is used, to focus only on the needle in the haystack.
The researchers performed the test by adding a tiny drop of human saliva that was spiked with THC, on the strip. The strip was then inserted into the electronic reader, which further applied a specific voltage. The electric current changed due to the occurrence of the polarization between the interacting antibody and the THC surfaces, shortly after the THC attached to the antibody. THC concentration would then be traceable after the conversion of data by the e-reader.
However, for THC levels ranging from 100 picograms per milliliter to 100 nanograms per milliliter, the device held accuracy. According to Prasad, this prototype was the first to be able to report both low and high concentrations of THC, with high sensitivity and specificity. Furthermore, the test requires less than five minutes to perform and complete.
Due to legal issues regarding cannabis in Texas, THC spiked saliva is what researchers are working with rather than actual cannabis smokers. However, law enforcement agencies and researchers from other states where cannabis is legalized, are interested in collaboration.
Additionally, lawmakers and regulatory groups have shown interest to develop effective laws by using the data generated by the device.
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