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A new study has linked reduced severity of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients who currently use cannabis. The research found that those who use cannabis have less need for ICU treatment or mechanical ventilators.
The findings came from an analysis of 1,831 COVID-19 patients admitted to two medical centers in California. Researchers on the study are affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California – Los Angeles.
“This retrospective cohort study suggests that active cannabis users hospitalized with COVID-19 had better clinical outcomes compared with non-users,” the researchers wrote in the study.
However, researchers did not find that those who use cannabis had better overall survival rates. And there is no indication that cannabis or any CBD product can “cure” COVID-19.
EHR Records Supply Study Information
Researchers analyzed the data obtained through electronic health records (EHR) maintained at both hospitals. They determined who currently uses cannabis through the self-reporting of the patient’s social history obtained upon check-in to the hospital.
“Active users” were those who reported any use of cannabis, either through smoking or edibles, within one month before admission. Researchers assumed that anyone who did not self-report cannabis use was a nonuser.
They then applied a severity score developed by the National Institutes of Health to each patient. The NIH severity ratings range from 1 (not hospitalized and no physical limitations) to 8 (death). Severity indicators include the need for supplemental oxygen, ICU admission, ventilation (as well as the length of time on ventilation), and length of hospital stay.
Researchers also adjusted their results based on confounders that included:
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Patient-reported sex, race, and tobacco smoking status
- Comorbidities including diabetes, cardiac disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease and liver disease
Even with these factors considered, cannabis users had better clinical outcomes than non-cannabis users.
Cannabis Users Score Lower on COVID-19 Severity Scale
The researchers reported that “cannabis users had significantly better outcomes than non-users as reflected in lower NIH scores.” Overall, cannabis users scored a 5.1, while non-users scored a 6. A 5 score indicated patients requiring supplemental oxygen while a score of 6 refers to those requiring either non-invasive ventilation or high flow oxygen devices.
When compared to non-users, current cannabis users also had:
- Shorter hospital stays (four days vs. six days)
- Lower ICU admission rates (12 percent vs. 31 percent)
- Less need for mechanical ventilation (6 percent vs. 17 percent)
They also had lower rates of diabetes (23.2 percent vs. 37.2 percent) than non-users. It’s worth noting that they also were much younger, with the average age of cannabis users at 44 and the average age of non-users at 62. However, researchers noted that “when adjusting for age, these outcomes remained consistent.”