Sensational headlines are proclaiming that cannabis users run a greater risk of COVID breakthrough cases. Is that true? Oaksterdam University Faculty Member Paul Armentano, Executive Director of NORML, says the findings apply only to a small minority of the cannabis community, many with comorbidities and adverse socioeconomic determinants.
A recent study, published in the journal World Psychiatry, found that fully vaccinated people with a clinical diagnosis of Cannabis Use Disorder are at greater risk of COVID breakthrough infections compared to similar controls. The cohort included 579,372 individuals, and of those, just over 2,000 met the criteria for CUD, which is defined by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) as “continued use of cannabis despite clinically significant impairment.”
Commenting on the study’s findings in a blog published by NORML, Armentano says the study “raises more questions than it answers,” and cautions its findings should not yet be extrapolated to the cannabis consuming population as a whole.
“Those subjects with this clinical diagnosis represent a very small and distinct subset of the cannabis consuming community and it is possible that they may possess certain behavioral traits or characteristics that place them at higher risk,” he says. “Arguably tens of thousands of cannabis consumers who did not have this diagnosis were also included in this cohort of over half a million people and they were classified as controls. Therefore, we have no idea from these findings what elevated risks, if any, these non-classified consumers – who comprise the overwhelming majority of marijuana users – possess.”
Still, Armentano says everyone should take precautions during the pandemic, and refer to NORML’s guidance on how cannabis consumers may be able to mitigate their risks of COVID exposure and adverse health outcomes due to the disease.