Are cannabis consumers more susceptible to illness?

Published Mar 23, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / dragana991

The true colors of any society show when they are pushed over the edge into the unknown, and despite a heightened sense of awareness and a bit too much panic buying, we’re all coming together to do the best that we can to stay healthy. Now, of course, all humans pick up habits throughout life that aren’t ideal, whether it’s a coffee addiction, an insatiable craving for cigarettes, or the need for some green, and the problem is that some of these habits make us more susceptible to illness.

Does smoking weed increase your chances of getting sick?

Luckily, these days there are numerous cannabis products to choose from that don’t involve swapping germs with your closest friends, but the majority of consumers still stick to smoking pure flowers because they are the cheapest, purest, and most natural form. They are also the easiest to find in store, but the adverse effects of smoking cannabis can increase your chances of catching a cold or flu bug, and this is for a couple of different reasons.

1. Sharing

Sharing joints, bongs, or pipes among friends might seem like a harmless activity, but if you really stop and think about it, there is a whole lot of germ swapping that occurs, and the more people you add to the equation, the higher your chances will be of catching something.

2. Lowered immune response

A smoker’s lungs are never perfect, as all kinds of smoke can cause irritation and, ultimately, a slightly weaker immune system. Though so far this has only been proven on a large scale with cigarettes, most scientists and doctors agree that simply inhaling a foreign substance into your lungs opens you up to a higher possibility of damage, and that can make you slightly more susceptible to catching an illness.

Now, at the same time, there is plenty of research to suggest that smoking weed can stimulate the immune system, but that doesn’t seem to change the fact that we get sick a whole lot more often than our counterparts, and when we do, our colds and touches of flu tend to be worse as we exacerbate the symptoms of the illness by smoking more weed in an attempt to feel better.

Tips that every stoner should know to avoid getting sick

The most important thing to remember is that the cannabis is not what’s going to give you a sickness, it’s those who are around you, and how you chose to conduct yourself that will ultimately determine the risk, however, there are several things that you can do to improve your chances of avoiding a cold or flu.

1. Buy only sealed cannabis products

When you buy cured buds or other cannabis goods in pre-sealed packing, you significantly decrease your chances of dealing with unwanted germs. These packages are often sealed well in advance of hitting the shelves of a dispensary, which helps to keep you protected. If your dispensary still weighs things in front of you, without washing their hands between handling each order, then you might want to find a new place to shop.

2. Keep your bong or pipe clean

A lot of people don’t realize this, but if your bong is not cleaned regularly, you are much more likely to come down sick, and that is true even if it was not shared with anyone else. If you use a bong or pipe when you are sick, then go back to using it once you have recovered, then chances are you could contract the same illness again. Think of it the same way that you do when you buy a new toothbrush after getting sick. Removing the germs from the equation gives you a better chance of healing.

Cleaning these stoner essentials is also important if you aren’t sick, because even though they are generally filled with only water or air, after a few uses, it doesn’t take long for millions of bacteria to grow and reside there. Inhaling mold spores and other harmful irritants can be terrible for your health, take down your immune system, and ultimately it can leave you more susceptible to illness.

3. Minimize sharing

Stoners are notorious for our willingness to share, as it is a part of the very fabric that knits the culture, but if you are trying to avoid getting sick, then you might want to be careful about who you allow to join in. It might be tempting to invite everyone you come across for a good relaxing hit off the old bong, but unless you are sanitizing the piece between each and every use, this kind of ‘no cares given’ attitude is bound to get you sick.

Keep your smoking group as small as possible and try to stick to folks who have a similar mindset about staying healthy. That way, you will be less likely to get sick and have more to share with those who you deem safe to partake with. It’s a win-win decision no matter how you slice it, and it will save you money, weed, and your sanity as you avoid the latest illness like a pro.

4. Invest in tools that can help to keep you safe

Cannabis culture might be all about sharing, but you can do that while keeping your risk to a minimum with a few helpful tools on hand, and a bit of planning. If you are a joint smoker, then you might want to consider a joint holder that hugs the roll in a way that keeps your lips off of the paper completely. With one of these cool aids, you can easily remove it before passing it on to your friends, and then reinstall it once the joint makes it back to you.

Another creative idea that is perfect for vapers is investing in extra cartridges that can be labeled so that you know exactly who has used it. When your friends show up, you’ll have a spare to offer, and you won’t have to risk your health while trying to help out a fellow cannabis enthusiast. It can be a bit expensive to start, but it’s well worth the plan in the long run when you aren’t all swapping colds.

5. Consider weed delivery

Some of us have grown fond of our budtenders, as they are the ones who have taken up the task of guiding us on this brand new, exciting journey, but unfortunately, they deal with thousands of other customers each week, which can significantly increase their chances of getting sick. It might not always be this way, but for now, until the flu and cold season ends entirely, it might be best to make friends with a delivery driver instead. Shop from the comfort of your own home and protect your health while you do it.

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