Cannabis users who contracted Covid-19 had better outcomes and reduced mortality compared to people who do not use marijuana, according to new research presented at a conference in Hawaii this week. A presentation on the study, which was conducted through a review of the medical records of more than 320,000 individuals, was delivered on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) in Honolulu.
“Marijuana smokers had better outcomes and mortality compared to non-users,” the authors of the study wrote in their conclusion. “The beneficial effect of marijuana use may be attributed to its potential to inhibit viral entry into cells and prevent the release of proinflammatory cytokines, thus mitigating cytokine release syndrome.”
To conduct the study, a team of researchers analyzed data on 322,214 patients from the National Inpatient Sample, a U.S. government database that tracks hospital use and outcomes. Patients who were under the age of 18 or who had information missing from the database were excluded from the study. Among the patients in the sample, 2,603 (less than 1%), said that they were cannabis users.
The patients in the sample were divided into two groups based on marijuana use. Data from the sample was then used “to match marijuana users to non-users 1:1 on age, race, gender, and 17 other comorbidities including chronic lung disease.”
When comparing cannabis users to non-users, the researchers determined that cannabis users “were younger and had higher prevalence of tobacco use.” Among the patients who did not use cannabis, “other comorbidities including obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus were more prevalent.”
Pot Users Had Significantly Lower Covid-19 Mortality
The analysis determined that cannabis users had significantly lower mortality compared to non-users (2.9% compared to 13.5%). Cannabis users also had significantly lower rates of complications associated with Covid-19, such as intubation, acute respiratory failure and multiorgan failure.
“On univariate analysis, marijuana users had significantly lower rates of intubation (6.8% vs 12%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (2.1% vs 6%), acute respiratory failure (25% vs 52.9%) and severe sepsis with multiorgan failure (5.8% vs 12%). They also had lower in-hospital cardiac arrest (1.2% vs 2.7%) and mortality (2.9% vs 13.5%).”
After 1:1 matching, marijuana users had lower mortality and lower rates of intubation, ARDS, acute respiratory failure and severe sepsis with multiorgan failure.
The authors noted that the study’s findings have clinical implications and called for further research into the potential link between cannabis use and Covid-19 outcomes.
“The significant decrease in mortality and complications warrants further investigation of the association between marijuana use and COVID-19,” the researchers wrote. “Our study highlights a topic of future research for larger trials especially considering the widespread use of marijuana.”
So far, research into possible associations between cannabis and Covid-19 has been limited, online cannabis news source Marijuana Moment noted in a report on the new study. A 2022 study found that among hospitalized patients, cannabis users had “lower COVID-19 severity” and “significantly better health outcomes.” Another study conducted last year found that cannabis use was associated with a lower chance of contracting Covid-19, but cannabis use was also linked to more serious infections.
And a separate 2022 lab study by researchers at the University of Oregon determined that cannabis compounds prevented infection by the Covid-19 virus in human cells. The researchers are also exploring cannabis as a treatment for Covid-19.
The new study “Exploring the Relationship Between Marijuana Smoking and Covid-19,” was published this month in a supplement to the peer-reviewed CHEST Journal.