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Stay safe: No-panic Guide on Coronavirus & Cannabis
By Anastasia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.

Stay safe: No-panic Guide on Coronavirus & Cannabis

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

The coronavirus outbreak is in the media spotlight. Social media is overloaded with the latest news and advice on fighting with coronavirus, and it seems that wearing the mask becomes the latest trend. 

Cannabis products have also become one of the latest media trends. The scientists consider cannabis as a potentially useful supplement for fighting with novel viruses. Given its properties for immunity enhancement and anxiety alleviation, cannabis and CBD products seem to help fight with novel viruses. The current studies are focused on proving its potential for coronavirus.

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In the time of uncertainty and mass panic, valid and accurate information is worth its weight in gold. In this article, we’ve collected up-to-date information you should know to take care of yourself and the closest ones. Let’s not panic and figure out the issue in more detail.

What is coronavirus?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

Surprisingly, coronavirus is not a single virus, but a group of related viruses, causing respiratory infections from the common cold to more serious, such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Even though coronavirus was first discovered in the 1960s, the latest outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2, known as COVID-19, caused fear and trembling due to its fast spread and no vaccine. 

Its royal name comes from the look of virus particles called virions. Under report of Queensland Health, small virions have a so-called “crown” when examined with a microscope. The seafood market in Wuhan, China, is considered to be the epicentre of a novel virus that is thought to have a zoonotic origin. The first infected people had the symptoms of flu that developed into pneumonia. Medical tests showed an unknown type of coronavirus. 

Coronavirus is thought to spread from human to human via airborne droplets that people exhale when coughing or sneezing. As soon as the virus gets into a human body, it begins to multiply. The immune system does its best to attack and kill the virus, but as it happens with good guys, it fails as it is not prepared to recognise the new types of viruses.

COVID-19 may lead to acute respiratory failure, however, its mortality rate is up to 2%, which is lower than other well-known diseases. Below is the chart with the data on fatality rate in 2018.

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

Source: WHO, CDC, NYT, Investment Strategy Group

The virus has evolved in the human body and gained the ability to transfer from human to human also if the symptoms are not yet present.

The most common symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • coughing
  • high temperature
  • shortness of breath

Coronavirus is thought to spread via airborne droplets. Even though the virus is highly unlikely to be spread through parcels or food, droplets can stay suspended in the air for a short time and remain contagious on metal, glass or plastic surfaces up to 9 days. The incubation period of the coronavirus lasts from 2 to 14 days. The latest findings of Chinese scientists showed that SARS-CoV-2 might remain detectable up to 37 days.

Check the image below to see the differences in fatality rates, incubation and contagious periods of different viruses.

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis
Source: WHO, CDC, NIH, DOL, NYT, Chinese Ministry of Health, Investment Strategy Group

How can CBD and cannabis users prevent coronavirus?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

It is time to listen to your mother, telling you to wash your hands when you were a child. Worldwide epidemiologists indicate that hygiene is the most important precautionary measure now for all people, including CBD and cannabis users. UK National Health Service (NHS) has issued some recommendations that may reduce the risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands with water and soap often at least for 20 seconds, especially when getting home or to work;
  • Use hand sanitisers in case there is no soap and water;
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use your sleeve; do not use hands;
  • Try not to contact with people who feel unwell;
  • Do not touch the nose, eyes, or mouth with dirty hands.

As you can see, masks are not mentioned. That is because the masks may only benefit in the following cases:

  • infected patients that may spread the virus
  • healthcare professionals working in high-risk environments. 

Frequent handwashing is still more effective than wearing a mask, though a mask can help not to touch your face often.

Avoiding social interactions also sounds like a good idea. That includes:

  • Work remotely from home and enjoy meeting your beloved family members and pets more often;
  • Avoid large crowds and limit trips to public spots. Passing by bars and cafes is unnecessary and postponing birthdays is a responsible decision;
  • Do not share personal stuff such as CBD vape pens with others. It’s time to be a bit stingy;
  • Try not to do the shopping in high-traffic hours. It is time to enter the online shopping world;
  • Help the elderly and people in high-risk categories. Bringing groceries for them could save lives;
  • Avoid shaking hands. How about an elbow bump? Presidents and well-known politicians already use this informal greeting;
  • Wipe all frequently-touched surfaces, including car wheels, phones or keyboards.

Where to obtain medical help?

If you need medical help or medical advice, you can use NHS 111, an online coronavirus service. There is no need to call NHS 111 if you plan to go into self-isolation. In case your symptoms worsen while you stay at home or you don’t feel better after seven days of homestay, you can contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111. For a medical emergency, dial 999. 

Use NHS 111 service if:

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis
  • you assume you might have caught coronavirus
  • you’ve visited a country or area with a high coronavirus risk in the last 14 days 
  • you’ve had close contact with someone with coronavirus 

You may call NHS 111 number to get help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. In Scotland, you can also call your GP surgery.

High-risk places include Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Taiwan, Tenerife – only the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

If there’s a risk you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to self-isolate, which includes:

  • staying at home;
  • not going to public places, including work, college or school;
  • not using public transport and taxis;
  • asking friends, relatives or delivery services to bring food and do errands for you;
  • not inviting anyone to your home.

Self-isolation should last for 14 days, and infected patients should stay in isolation until recovery, as it may help lower the risk of possible spread of infection.

So far, no vaccine, specific medicines or treatment was created. Antibiotics are useless in such a case as they do not help with viruses. Generally, treatment aims to alleviate the symptoms while your immune system fights with the illness. 

Can cannabis and CBD help fight with coronavirus?

Why is immunity so important?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

The immune system is made up of cells, organs and systems that control the production and maturation of the lymphocytes, defence cells. This system helps to protect the body against diseases or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. The immune system can identify pathogens, from viruses to parasites, and fight them off. The immune system consists of the innate and the adaptive systems. With the use of adaptive responses, the system learns from previous personal experiences with other viruses, and that is why people respond differently to the COVID-19 virus. Here is how it works: B lymphocytes are activated to make antibodies that lock onto antigens and stay in the human body when the disease is gone. If the immune system encounters that antigen ever again, the antibodies are released. However, as SARS-CoV-2 is a novel virus, the body is not ready to respond appropriately.

Processes of the immune system are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS), made of receptors responsive to the body’s endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. The most well-known is CBD (cannabidiol), found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. The primary function of ECS is the balance of body systems, including the hormones, endocrine and nervous systems, neurotransmitters, and the parts of the immune system including T cells, cytokines, and macrophages. The inner balance helps to prevent over-reactions of the immune system that can be harmful to the body. In March 2020, Australian researchers have proved that a robust immune response across different cell types may help coronavirus patients to fight the coronavirus and recover from the infection. Cannabinoids, influencing the body’s response to viruses, are considered to be useful in fighting with COVID-19. 

Can CBD help to fight off coronavirus?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

So far, no studies regarding cannabis and CBD prove its efficacy nor refute its benefits. CBD is not considered a cure for the coronavirus in humans, but its calming, anti-inflammation and immune-stimulating properties may address the issue. 

Immune system regulation

In many cases, it is not a virus that harms the body but the immune system’s response. Multiple studies suggest that CBD may cause bi-directional influence on the immune system, acting as an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator. That means that CBD can change the immune system responses, suppress over-reactions, and increase under-reactions, depending on a current health condition. 

Studies show that cannabinoids and their receptors may influence the immune system, viral pathogenesis, and viral replication. Therefore, activation or suppression of cannabinoid receptors in most viral infections has the potential for the development of safe and effective treatments. However, the use of cannabinoids for current users should be considered with caution.

CBD’s suppressive effect on the immunity system may be useful for autoimmune diseases, inflammatory conditions, and neuroinflammation. Studies on mice have shown that CBD administered therapeutically, such as for an ongoing inflammatory process, may have a strong anti-inflammatory effect and improve the lung function. Therefore cannabidiol may become a potential therapeutic tool for the alleviation and treatment of inflammatory lung diseases. CBD may also inhibit interferon, signalling proteins released in response to virus infection, during chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. However, it causes no such effect when fighting off a viral infection, such as HIV.

CBD’s stimulating effect on the immunity system may bring benefits when managing viruses. There is evidence of anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in the viral model of multiple sclerosis, which shows the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol for the treatment of conditions with an inflammatory component.

Virus inhibition

Our bodies have an important mechanism called programmed cell death. This function helps to eliminate damaged cells, including those that have changed their DNA. These cells can accumulate mutations and become dangerous. Cell death helps the immune system to get rid of infected cells. Studies have shown that CBD might stimulate cell death in cells infected by the virus, but not healthy ones.

A 2017 study on viral hepatitis has shown the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its metabolites against various diseases and viruses. The use of cannabidiol helped to inhibit the hepatitis C replication significantly.

Balance maintenance

The immune system consists of and regulates adaptive and dynamic components to provide an accurate, and fast response to unknown pathogens. An inadequate or late immune response may prolong disease, while an excessive or uncontrolled response may result in autoimmunity, making immune responses act against healthy cells and tissues. Components, such as a cytokine, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and its receptor IL-2R play an important role in maintaining the balance. As CBD may cause bi-directional influence on the body, it can either suppress or encourage the production of IL-2 and IFN-γ depending on optimal or suboptimal T cell activation. IL-2 is important for the immune system to identify foreign and own parts and fight infection. T cells or T lymphocytes help to form the immune response, making immune cells to fight infection. T lymphocytes can destroy infected cells and signal other immune cells to create an immune response. The level of T cells in the lungs is crucial when fighting a coronavirus such as COVID-19. In most cases, HIV, SARS, and COVID-19 viruses decrease the virus-specific T cells during the acute phase.

CBD can inhibit the activity of interferon and IL2 if the level of T cells is high and induce them if T cells activity is not sufficient.

Studies on humans and animals show that potent response of virus-specific T cells may protect against lethal SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV viruses. Therefore, scientists may consider ways to improve T cell response, providing reliable long-term tissue memory, and develop future vaccines. Stable local and systemic memory T cell response works better than any of these processes alone.

As a result, CBD products may influence the endocannabinoid system, providing the balance in the immune system response to viruses, such as the COVID-19. This helps the immune system to adjust to the changing environment, inhibiting dangerous over-reactions, and enhancing under-reactions.

Does CBD vaping help with coronavirus?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

Doctors do not recommend smoking and vaping during any respiratory diseases. Even though CBD products may cause anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, sleep-inducing, and antimicrobial effects, inhaling hot vapour won’t do any good to infected lungs. So far, CBD vaping is not prohibited for people suffering from coronavirus. Let’s consider current studies and address the issue in more detail. 

Usually, those who vape or smoke have their lung health compromised. The latest findings from China showed that more men had the infection than women, supposing that smoking may often cause infection and death. Сigarettes may undoubtedly impair the lungs’ ability to fight off infection. On the other hand, this fact doesn’t mean that smokers are more susceptible to novel COVID-19. Co-morbidities, such as heart or respiratory diseases, challenge the condition.

A study on e-cigarettes’ use published in 2020 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that even though e-cigarettes can be safer than traditional cigarettes, people who vaped were approx. 30% more likely to suffer from chronic lung disease. Study results suggested that e-cigarettes use may be a risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to tobacco smoking. Simultaneous use was considered riskier than using only one product alone.

A 2020 study on mice showed that inhalation of Vitamin E acetate from vaping products might cause pulmonary injuries. Smoke and second-hand smoke might cause inflammation and lower immune response in mice. Various animal studies suggested that regular vaping may change the ability of the animal to respond to infection. However, animals’ lungs in all those cases were compromised with the exception of vulnerabilities to COVID-19. There is still a high chance that vaping, especially with the liquids that contain psychoactive THC may alter the lungs’ ability to manage the infection.

There is also an important recommendation for the vapers not to share vaping devices such as vape pens as it may spread viruses, such as COVID-19. Make sure to keep an eye on that.

What are NHC and the UK government measures?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

In March 2020, the risk of Covid-19 was raised to high. At first, the UK government has placed some hope in “herd immunity”, meaning that: the weak and vulnerable people could be better-protected if the most of the population had got the coronavirus and become immune to it. However, some time later, they disclaimed this strategy. The UK government has published the coronavirus action plan. The State for Health and Social Care has claimed strengthened legal powers for public health protection. The UK government has also established The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 to slow down further human-to-human transmission in the UK. The Regulation includes the measures of self-isolation when necessary.

The UK Coronavirus Action Plan

The action plan includes current measures and plans of the UK regarding coronavirus, based on previous infectious diseases and influenza pandemic preparedness work. As time goes, the actions against COVID-19 will be adjusted to the nature, scale, and location of the coronavirus in the UK.

The coronavirus action plan includes:

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis
  • the information about the coronavirus
  • the disease caused by the coronavirus
  • the plans regarding infectious disease outbreak including COVID-19
  • the measures and plans regarding COVID-19 outbreak
  • the current and potential roles of the public in supporting the measures and plans

COVID-19 outbreak became a significant challenge for the entire world since December 2019. The UK government and the health and social care system have prepared to respond to the virus, ensuring solid protection to the public.

How can employers and businesses survive in the time of coronavirus? 

The UK government has published guidance for employers and businesses, providing advice about the COVID-19.

This guidance will provide advice to employers and businesses, including:

  • the information about COVID-19
  • how to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • what to do if the symptoms of COVID-19 are present
  • sick pay eligibility 

There is also information on support for businesses including:

  • statutory sick pay relief package available for small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • a 12-month business rates holiday available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England;
  • business grant and grant funding for businesses;
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; 
  • the tax scheme named HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

How to diagnose coronavirus?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

After the SARS outbreaks in 2003, Public Health England (PHE) created diagnostic tests for coronavirus detection. These tests have also been used to detect MERS cases in 2012. In cooperation with WHO and a global network of laboratories, PHE has developed tests for novel coronavirus. The UK has also developed self-test kits available at GPs and pharmacies for hospitalised people with symptoms of COVID-19.

Healthcare professionals were advised to submit the samples of travellers, returning from high-risk areas to Public Health England (PHE). The samples are taken from the nose, throat, and deeper respiratory samples, then packed and sent to PHE Colindale. PHE can produce a laboratory result, identify the viral genome, and compare it to sequences from China if necessary. They help to track viral mutations and provide the information on how it may spread.

Is there a vaccine against coronavirus?

The answer is quite sad: so far, no vaccine may effectively fight with coronavirus.

Just a couple of weeks after the virus outbreak, Chinese scientists managed to know its genome and shared this knowledge with global experts.

However, developing a vaccine is not easy due to some reasons:

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis
  • Challenging process

Scientists need to produce a vaccine that will induce the immune system but won’t cause significant harm to humans or cause severe symptoms of the disease. In general, any vaccine development requires clinical trials on animals. In their turn, trials are costly and may take a long time before the vaccine will be approved as safe and effective. Additionally, manufacturing and distribution are also time-consuming.

  • Considerable cost

Clinical trials, as well as equipment required for trials, may require millions of US dollars, which is challenging for state institutions and small companies. Pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to invest in the vaccine as the risks of financial losses due to low demand and compensations to the public are high. However, several pharmaceutical companies including Inovio and Moderna, Imperial College of London and National healthcare institutes in the USA are planning to participate in the vaccine development. 

Taking into account all these challenges, scientists have appealed to the medications available on the market. Preliminary clinical trials and lab tests have shown promising results of Chloroquine, Actemra, Kaletra, Remdesivir, Avigan and some other medications.

The pandemic of false news

According to the Total Google News hits, Covid-19 and coronavirus have already received 2.1 billion mentions in the media. That seems to be true, as news feeds and social media have chosen Covid as a new trend. Here comes the danger: the media is full of inaccurate and misleading information due to the following reasons:

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis
  • fake ideas tend to spread without direct contact via messengers, social and even mainstream media
  • people tend to spread conspiracy theories actively, just as the virus does. 

Even though conspiracy theories can’t cause death, they may bring no less harm. There are myths for all ages and any taste, from the coronavirus outbreak caused by 5G masts radiation to covering the financial crisis following Brexit.

One of the most popular theories is that the economic and political growth of China provokes jealousy and China’s hardships may bring benefits to its rivals. 

Misleading medical information regarding coronavirus may cause more dangers. Such as wearing masks makes no sense for healthy people, but their deficit in pharmacies may cause problems. Medical misinformation may confuse the people, wreak havoc and lead to the further spread of the virus.

Some fake news were related to cannabis. This interest was caused by a Twitter meme “Breaking News – Weed Kills Coronavirus”, telling that marijuana may treat the novel virus. The news was claimed to be untrue by the statement of the World Health Organization. Even though the organisation supports the intention to produce the vaccine and clinical trials are ongoing, so far, no special treatment has been created. The interesting fact is that fake news attracted massive online attention to cannabis benefits. Multiple studies suggest that cannabis has a potential antiviral effect.

Easy and fast access to valid and accurate information may lower “infodemic.” Social media companies, such as Facebook, in collaboration with WHO have begun to fight with misleading information. The WHO keeps working on identifying the most common and dangerous myths and offers more evidence-based data. Google has made a SOS alert, placing WHO information to the very top of search results, and Tiktok has hosted a WHO account. The WHO places trustworthy health information and advice on its social media channels and website, including the most common myth busters about coronavirus. It is worth reading as not to use salty water and ultraviolet disinfection, trying to manage coronavirus.

How Covid-19 may change our lives?

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

The impact on the cannabis industry

The cannabis products retailer has claimed that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 causes significant delays in product orders, influencing the supply chain for products such as cannabis vapes. The shutdowns of Chinese factories affect the shipment and delivery of cannabis products. Even though cannabis companies are aware of winter delivery disruption during Lunar New Year, novel coronavirus is unexpected and may last much longer.

Cannabis giants have stocked sufficient inventory in advance, and keep maintaining close relationships with suppliers to reduce the overall disruption. Storing large inventory remains challenging for smaller companies, and they may face shortages of cannabis products.

China remains the largest global producer of hemp. Even though it is mainly cultivated by the local farmers, exports have significantly reduced, affecting the market for products derived from hemp, including cannabidiol.

The market for vaping products may see a downturn due to concerns about vaping-related diseases and lung injuries. It is not known for sure if coronavirus can spread via things, such as parcels. The latest findings published in the Journal of Hospital Infection have shown that SARS, HCoV and MERS coronaviruses may remain on inanimate surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, but may be inactivated by disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.

The world stock markets also face a free-fall. The index of global cannabis stocks has started to decrease steadily since March 2019 and are caught up in the overall market decline. The same trends remain valid for the American cannabis operator index.

No mass events

Numerous mass events, including cannabis industry conferences and trade shows, have been cancelled or postponed to a later date. Financial losses caused by events’ cancellations are estimated at million US dollars and happen to be costly for smaller and young cannabis companies. Cancellation is a hard but necessary decision as it aims to slow down the spread of the virus. This strategy was called “flattening the curve.” The sudden escalation of COVID-19 may overload healthcare systems and require considerable financial and human resources to recover stability. In this case, people may die due to the lack of medical equipment and medical staff.

“Flattening the curve” makes the same number of cases happen in a longer period, not overloading the healthcare system. It means that more people will get proper care, and more healthcare staff will avoid burnout and diseases.

COVID-19 pandemic

alphagreen coronavirus cannabis

The WHO was concerned by the high level of virus spread and severity and in March 2020 declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. By identifying COVID-19 as a pandemic, the WHO is placing it in a different category than recent deadly outbreaks, such as Ebola and the Zika virus outbreak. It means that the virus will highly likely to spread to countries all over the world.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch has assumed that up to 70 per cent of people all over the world may be infected with the virus within the coming year. However, it doesn’t mean that all the people will become severely ill, as some may have no symptoms. Epidemiologists have also suggested that coronavirus may become a new seasonal disease in the future. The season of cold, flu and COVID-19 is possible if people won’t develop a long-lasting immunity to coronavirus and the virus mutates further.

Pandemic culture

Handshakes are going out of fashion. More and more people, including well-known politicians, prefer an elbow bump or a smile to a potentially dangerous greeting. Anthropologist Neil Gerlach and Sheryl Hamilton of Carleton University in Ottawa have suggested that we live in a time of high disease awareness and defined it as a ‘pandemic culture.’ Now people pay great attention to the safety and cleanliness and greater personal space. One of the major features of pandemic culture is that these changes may remain when the pandemic is over. Until then, stay home, wash your hands and be well.


Anastasiia Myronenko

Verified by a Healthcare Professional

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.

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