Preliminary study suggests active cannabis users have lower rate of ICU admission when hospitalized with Covid
A new study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research found that a small sample of cannabis users had less severe cases of Covid-19 while in hospital than non-users. Cannabis users had better outcomes, including less need for intensive care admission or mechanical ventilation. However, the study was very limited and prospective and observational studies are still needed to draw stronger conclusions.
The study focused on two hospitals in the Los Angeles, California area. Of the 1831 Covid patients who participated in the study, 69 patients reported actively using cannabis, or only 4% of all patients. Importantly, differences in overall survival were not statistically significant between cannabis users and non-users, according to the study. Here is a breakdown of individual patient characteristics.
“The link between cannabis use and better Covid outcomes is strong,” say the study authors. The authors also admit that their study was very limited and that the conclusions drawn are only suggestions. The authors' methodology relied on a retrospective analysis of patient data, which included comparison of NIH Covid-19 severity scores, need for supplemental oxygen, admission to an intensive care unit, ventilation mechanics, length of hospital stay, and in-hospital death for cannabis users and non-users.
“Cannabis users had significantly better outcomes than non-users, as evidenced by lower NIH scores (5,1 versus 6,0), shorter hospital stay (4 days versus 6 days), lower rates of lower intensive care admissions (12% versus 31%) and less need for mechanical ventilation (6% versus 17%). The ICU admission rate was 12 percentage points lower and the intubation rate was 6 percentage points lower among cannabis users,” the study said.
The study suggests that chronic cannabis use may have positive effects on Covid-19 outcomes in hospitalized patients. The authors hypothesize that better results may be due to the medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory effects, of certain cannabinoids.
“Cannabis users were more likely to have lower levels of inflammatory markers at admission compared to non-users. This effect was maintained during their hospital stay, with cannabis users continuing to have lower inflammatory markers than non-users,” the study states.
Cannabis users in this study tended to be younger, 62% male and 38% female, and the majority were white, 48%, with 15% black, 4% Asian, and 28% Latino patients. . A much higher percentage, 20%, of cannabis users were tobacco smokers, compared to only 4% of all patients. "Consistent with known trends, active cannabis users were younger overall than non-users," the report said. "However, after adjusting for age, these results remained consistent."
The study did not differentiate between consumption methods. “Given the various ways cannabis can be introduced into the body, our grouping of inhaled and ingested cannabis should introduce little variability into an already highly variable cohort of cannabis users. Grouping all cannabis users, regardless of delivery method, gives our study greater analytical power while minimizing the risk of overadjusted data. »
Doctors specializing in lung diseases were the main contributors to this study. The study's authors include Dr. Carolyn M. Shover, an emergency medicine specialist in Downey, Calif.; Peter Yan, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles; Nicholas J. Jackson, Department of Medicine (Statistics Core); Jennifer A. Fulcher, of the Division of Infectious Diseases; Donald P. Tashkin, Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care; Igor Barjaktarevic, from the Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Intensive Care; and Russell G. Buhr, of the Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care, who also works for the Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy, Health Services Research & Development, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
It's not the first study to look at cannabinoids and Covid, although it claims to be the first to look at data from real Covid patients who were admitted to hospital. A high-profile study found that the cannabinoids CBGA and CBDA block the entry of Covid into cells. "These cannabinoids, either isolated or in hemp extracts, have the potential to prevent as well as treat SARS-CoV-2 infection," the researchers said, first reported by Forbes. But the reality of this study, mainly the fact that these cannabinoids were derived from hemp and the most well-known cannabinoid, THC, was not included in the study. The complexity of this information may have gotten lost in translation during its viral moment on social media.
A study conducted in 2021 showed that cannabinoids help reduce “inflammatory storms” in a skin tissue model. These inflammatory storms can occur in severe cases of Covid-19. The addition of cannabis extracts in the treatment makes it possible "to curb the inflammation and to prevent fibrosis, and leads to a remission of the disease. This study, conducted in Canada, was able to examine THC and CBD and their combined effect, which is found to be most effective when the cannabinoids work in concert.
"When it comes to specific chemicals, our analysis shows that CBD or THC alone do not have the same effect," said study author Dr. Igor Kovalchuck. “We are strong believers in full-spectrum, entourage-based effects. It is likely that secondary (minor) cannabinoids and terpenes contribute to this, and we write in the article that one of these terpenes could be the caryophyllene."