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Researchers Say Smoking Cannabis Could Potentially Increase the Risk of COVID-19

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Doctors have reported that smoking cannabis may increase the smoker’s risk of coronavirus, due to the inflammation caused in the lungs that could potentially reduce the ability of the smoker to fight the COVID-19 – a respiratory disease.

With the global pandemic spreading rapidly, the increasing numbers of infected cases and deaths have been causing panic in the population. A warning has been issued regarding smoking cannabis during the coronavirus outbreak, by experts at the American Lung Association (ALA). Smoking cannabis, regular or occasional, can increase the risks of more severe complications of COVID-19.

According to a statement to CNN, by a chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, Pulmonologist Dr. Albert Rizzo, the smoker’s airways undergo some degree of inflammation, similar to bronchitis, when they smoke cannabis. Dr. Albert Rizzo further added that this holds a similarity with the type of inflammation caused by cigarette smoking, and there are very likely chances of further complications if the smoker were to get infected.

Furthermore, according to ALA, a doctor will face more difficulty diagnosing a patient’s COVID-19 symptoms, if they smoke cannabis. The reason is, dry cough is one of the important symptoms of COVID-19. However, smoking cannabis can cause the smoker to easily mimic this symptom, increasing difficulty in the diagnosis.

Adding difficulty in the diagnosis and hence confounding the ability of health care workers to make a rapid, accurate assessment, would be harmful, according to Dr. Mitchell Glass, who is a pulmonologist and spokesperson for the American Lung Association.

In addition to the current risk of cannabis users during the pandemic, health bosses have reported that smokers are 14 times more likely to develop COVID-19. Furthermore, family members can be put at higher risk of COVID-19 too, due to second-hand smoke, according to the Public Health England (PHE).

Looking at the rapid spread of the pandemic with an increasing number of deaths, there has never been a more essential time to stop smoking, for the protection of the smoker’s health along with the surrounding population, according to Professor John Newton, PHE’s director of health.

According to a small but incredibly impactful survey from China, smokers with COVID-19 put themselves at higher risks of developing severe diseases. The factors that led to the progression of COVID-19 pneumonia in patients at three different hospitals in Wuhan, China, is what the study focused on.

One of the factors that the study identified was a “history of smoking”. The study was conducted between December 30 last year and January 15.

Other significant factors that the study concluded were age, maximum body temperature on admission, and respiratory failure. Chinese Medical Journal was where the study was published. The study concluded that these results could prove to be useful in the enhancement of the ability of management of COVID-19.

PHE added that the repetitive hand to mouth movement by smokers could provide the virus with an easy route of entry.

According to Professor Newton, irrespective of age, quitting the habit of smoking could prove to be beneficial as the body will continue to repair itself during the smoke-free period.

One of the immediate advantages of quitting smoking is the elimination of carbon monoxide from the smoker’s body. Furthermore, the lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris, according to PHE.

Moreover, ease in breathing is enhanced after the relaxation of bronchial tubes within 72 hours of quitting smoking. Also, blood circulation improves, which eventually increases the ease of physical activities such as walking and running, within 12 weeks of quitting smoking.

Smokers can help themselves, their families and their communities, by giving up the habit, according to Hazel Cheeseman, Director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

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Cannabis

Voting on MORE Act Delayed

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Voting on the MORE Act due to be held in September have been delayed until after the November elections.

Marijuana advocates were expecting the MORE Act to be put up for a historical voting session this September. The bill was supposed to legalize marijuana at the federal level and introduce social justice reforms. Advocates were seeing this as an opportunity to finally end the racial disparities faced by the people of color in the United States. Contrary to these expectations, voting on the MORE ACT has now been delayed until after the November elections.

What is the MORE Act?

MORE Act is short for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. It is a proposed legislation that would remove cannabis from the Schedule 1 category and legalize it federally.

In addition to this, the bill has also proposed criminal justice reforms. This involves an expungement of prior cannabis convictions and re-sentencing of those under supervision and much more. Furthermore, the bill has also proposed to create grant programs to benefit the communities most hardly hit by the war on drugs.

apart from this, the bill also introduced certain immigrant protection laws. The Act has attempted to put an end to deportation or citizenship denial on the basis of minor marijuana offenses. It also aimed to establish a sales tax of 5% on marijuana and its related products. Returns from it were to be channelized towards youth training programs, substance use treatments, loans and licenses for small businesses in the marijuana industry, and many other causes.

Kamala Harris an Jerry Naddler introduced the MORE Act in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively, on the 23rd of July 2019. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill with a 24-10 majority.

In August of 2020, Vanita Gupta called for a vote on the Act on behalf of marijuana advocates and civil right activists. It would have been a historic move if the bill had been placed in the House of Representatives for voting. Never before in history has a move for descheduling marijuana reached this farther in the legislation process.

In the words of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,”

Voting on MORE Act delayed

A few weeks ago, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had announced that voting on the MORE Act will hit the floor during the week of September 21. However, the office of Steny Hoyer did not include the bill in it weekly floor schedule. A commitment to bring up the bill sometime in late fall has been made.

Most reform advocates believe that the decision to delay voting on MORE Act may have been influenced by moderate Democrats. This group had expressed an earlier concern that voting on a cannabis bill while coronavirus relief legislation was was unresolved would  not create a pleasant image for the reelection campaigns.

This delay has not been taken in good spirits by reform advocates like Rep.Barbara Lee and Rep Earl Blumenauer. According to them, ending the failed war on drugs has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans disproportionately. They believe that the public deserves the right to vote on the issue of marijuana legalization.

“Though it appears to be a temporary delay, we are seriously disappointed by this news as time and time again, communities directly impacted by systemic injustices are made to wait for justice and change,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Despite of this blow to their cause, albeit temporary, advocates of marijuana legalization are still hopeful. They are optimistic that whenever the bill gets presented for a vote, it will get some bipartisan support. This was established Republicans like Rep. Matt Gaetz, McClintock and showed their intentions to vote yes on the MORE Act.

Opponents of the MORE Act

The delay on the marijuana legalization voting is being celebrated among the opponents. Among them is Rep. Andy Harris who took to twitter to express his views.

Opponents have hailed this delay in voting as a massive victory for public health and safety. They established the fact that encouraging marijuana use in disadvantaged communities was social injustice as less than 2% of marijuana industry is owned by the minority community. The bill would benefit the wealthy white investors, big pharma and the tobacco and alcohol conglomerates.

 

 

 

 

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Decriminalization of marijuana likely under Joe Biden’s administration

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Is Joe Biden's decriminalization of marijuana enough for policy reforms or does he need to do more?

Joe Biden has gained prominence yet again on the political scene of United States as a presidential nominee for the 2020 elections. According to his running mate Kamala Harris, decriminalization of marijuana is a change in the design of the system which will definitely be dealt with if they win the elections. Effectuation of this policy will also involve an automatic expungement of all marijuana-use convictions and ‘end incarceration for drug use alone’.

Kamala Harris outlined these proposals during a virtual roundtable she hosted through Facebook Live on September 14th.

“This is no time … for half-steppin’, this is no time for incrementalism. We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system.” said Kamala during the virtual roundtable.

The proposed alterations in the legislative policies reflect a huge change in the political stances of these democratic leaders. Both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been active supporters of strict actions against drug use. From proposing decriminalization of marijuana to desceduling it, the duo has evolved a lot on their attitudes towards the drug.

Biden has spent a career in Washington that stressed for mandatory minimum sentencing. According to Naomi Murakawa, author of  The First Civil Right:How Liberals Built Prison America, Joe Biden’s policies have ‘made the criminal justice system more lethal and just bigger’.

Biden helped write the controversial 1994 ”tough on crime” law. This law had resulted in aggressive policing, mass incarcerations and more prison cells in the 1990s. He was at the center of framing many other federal policies that escalated the war on drugs.

Biden has defended the 1994 law as recently as 2016. He argued that it helped to put an end to an era of crime and violence in American cities. Biden’s past records with criminal justice issues had put him at odds with most Democrats as a vast majority of them were in support of some sort of reforms in marijuana policies.

Earlier this year, Joe Biden has admitted to making mistakes in his political career. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried,” he said. In an attempt to highlight the changes in his political views, he admitted to the presence of systematic racism within the nation. His decisions had trapped an entire generation, but despite of this he was hopeful about carrying the legacy of MLK forward.

California and Proposition 19

Proposition 19 is also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The initiative had proposed legalization of marijuana and its related activities for adults 21 years and older. It had also allowed local governments to regulate, tax and control these activities.

About 53.5% votes opposed the initiative on the ballots, leading to its defeat. Kamala Harris was also among those who opposed it and saw the proposition as a public safety issue. She only supported the legal use of medical marijuana but not anything beyond that.

Policy reforms by Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is often mocked by her opponents for her past record as a prosecutor of marijuana cases. According to some sources, she is responsible for putting 1500 people in jail for marijuana related crimes.

In July of 2019 however, Kamala Harris introduced the MORE Act, short for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungment Act. The bill proposed a removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 classification. In addition to this, criminal justice reforms and decriminalization of the drug were also a part of the bill. This bill has not received a single vote from the republican controlled Senate.

This September, the MORE Act would be up for vote in the House of Representatives. Voting for rescheduling marijuana in the Congress is a history changing event which has never happened before. Many are seeing this voting opportunity as ‘a chance to end a failed policy’.

If successful, the Act will allow marijuana a legal status at the federal level, although sales will not be legalized immediately in states. “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), an advocate of marijuana legalization.

Will marijuana be legal?

Republicans have criticized Democrats for ignoring more urgent issues like handling the pandemic and handling healthcare issues. Therefore, the chances of this bill passing in the Senate are low in light of the severe opposition.

Furthermore, both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have been supporters of decriminalizing marijuana not legalizing it. This is why many politicians, including Barbara Lee, think that Joe Biden will need to evolve more on his marijuana policies.  Although the decriminalization of marijuana and its removal from the Schedule 1 classification are big steps but more needs to be done.

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Cannabis Vs Prescription drugs – Can cannabis win?

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Cannabis Vs Prescription drugs is a topic of increasing debate among experts.

Cannabis is often compared with prescription drugs to determine its efficacy for soothing various types of health conditions. Whether or not such comparisons are constructive is a question that is awaiting detailed research by experts. Until then, the debate of cannabis vs prescription drugs will continue to shift weight on the beam balance of opinions. Only solid scientific evidence will decide if substituting one with the other as a treatment method is a step towards the right direction.

Cannabis vs Prescription Drugs

Since prescription medicines have been around for quite sometime, data related to their effects is very well-known. Contrary to this, the information pertaining to the effects of using cannabis on the body is still lacking evidence and research.

Despite of this, cannabis is being widely used by many patients as an alternate medicine in an effort to relieve their discomfort. This diversion can be primarily associated with the adverse effects of prescription drugs that are not only generally known but are also proven in various studies.

Gabapentin for instance, is a prescription drug that is used to treat epilepsy in patients. Other conditions that it may treat include neuropathy, restless leg syndrome and hot flashes. In spite of these benefits, various studies conducted on the drug have uncovered some serious carry overs associated with its prolonged usage.

Depression of the respiratory tract is one of the most serious side-effects which gabapentin can cause. Although this condition occurs in explicit circumstances, but even a slight probability makes this prescription drug dangerous. Vision problems, retrograde amnesia, trembling and irritability are among the other examples of the ‘tags-attached’ with the medicine.

In addition, another class of drugs called benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’ cause sedative-hypnotic outcomes on the body. Scientists call this class benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’. After consumption, these drugs attach with the GABA-A receptors of the brain. This has the effect of slowing down the stimulation of the nerves, creating a calming sensation in the body. The addiction factor of this class of drugs basically stems from its tendency to tranquilize the system.

Users of benzodiazepines and gabapentin have suffered from addiction and withdrawal upon use. Infact, gabapentin increases the negative impact of other opioids according to researches conducted by Quest Diagnostics. The research findings have established that individuals battling substance abuse who also happen to consume gabapentin, increase their chances of opioid related death by 49%.

Can CBD substitute prescription drugs?

The most common argument given by the opponents of CBD use for medicinal purposes is its alleged psychoactive impact on the body. This common perception is not entirely correct because there are different strains of cannabis plants and not all of them impact the mind and body in this perceived manner.

In reality, another component of the cannabis plant called THC is responsible for the euphoric feeling. Although both CBD and THC have a similar chemical structure, they bind differently to the brain receptors. In addition, CBD actually reduces the psychoactive impacts of THC by blocking its access to the body’s receptors.

Most patients use CBD for soothing anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy or chronic pain. Due to the background benefits that follow its use, most individuals end up swapping their prescription drugs with CBD. Most patients discover these benefits almost accidentally. For instance, people taking CBD for anxiety may experience a reduction in their chronic pain, causing them to swap CBD with their pain medication.

Risks associated with non-prescribed swapping of medication with cannabis products

Even though researches relating to swapping prescription drugs with cannabis is in its fancy,  patients still consider it as a replacement option. This self presumed swapping of medications by patients has raised concerns among healthcare professionals. A large part of this concern  stems from possible drug interactions that may occur in the body. According to Dr. Corroon founder of Center for Medical Cannabis, adding CBD to a drug regimen of an opioid or benzo amplifies some of the effects.

For instance, the bodies of  patients taking CBD and Valium ( a benzo) together will metabolize CBD earlier. This sends back Valium to the bloodstream, causing it to stay n the body for a longer period of time. Without the consultation of physicians, this might lead to an unintentional overdose of the prescription drug.

Vice President of Patient Research at Tilary, Dr. Phillipe Lucas has conducted a latest research on this subject. The study analysed about 2032 medical cannabis patients using a survey. About 45% of patients reported substituting alcohol with cannabis, and about 26% used it in place of illicit drugs. The substitution rate for prescription drugs was the highest and stood at 69%.

This stresses the need for proper supervision. With the correct guidelines in place, patients can protect themselves from withdrawal issues, addiction and drug interactions.

 

 

 

 

 

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