The coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted our lives in a lot of ways – including how much we invest in protecting our immune health. From mask wearing to washing our hands more often, avoiding the virus as much as possible has become top priority. These types of behaviors can certainly help us stay healthy.
But what about other behaviors like marijuana use? Can something that relaxes you make you more susceptible to COVID-19? Let’s find out how marijuana can impact your immune health and put you at greater risk of getting sick.
An Overview of the Immune System
Before we dive into the effects of marijuana, let’s take a quick look at your immune system. The immune system is an intricate collection of organs, tissues and cells that work every day to keep you healthy from the countless bacteria, viruses and germs you’re exposed to every day.
One crucial part of your immune system is white blood cells. White blood cells are tasked with going out and destroying foreign visitors. There are two main types of white blood cells that keep your body healthy:
- B Cells: These cells work to produce antibodies to fight off germs, bacteria and viruses. They also help your body remember past infections so they can be more effective at fighting these invaders in the future.
- T Cells: These are the bruisers of the immune system. T Cells absorb and destroy foreign invaders.
The main role of your immune system if to keep watch and detect anything that is out of place. It’s important to remember that killing cells is one of the key processes that keeps your immune system running smoothly.
How Marijuana Suppresses Your Immune System
Marijuana has the power to suppress your immune system because the chemicals in the drug activate your body’s production of myeloid-derived suppressor cells. These cells keep your immune system in check, suppressing it and keeping it from doing its job.
The result is your immune system becomes less effective at protecting you from germs, viruses and bacteria that make their way into your body. Unfortunately, this means that increased marijuana use leaves you more susceptible to colds, flus and even COVID-19.
The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Marijuana
Marijuana is sometimes used in medical settings for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s part of the reason why some cancer patients use marijuana to help cope with pain. However, this anti-inflammatory factor can actually backfire if you abuse marijuana.
Your body has an inflammatory response that’s needed to help your immune system find foreign substances. This inflammatory response process causes cells to release specific chemicals out when they’re damaged. These chemicals signal to the immune system that it needs to attack bacteria, viruses and germs.
Marijuana abuse suppresses this inflammatory response, keeping your immune system from detecting dangerous cells. If your immune system isn’t aware of threats to your body, germs, bacteria and viruses are able to spread freely and get you sick.
Apoptosis is a process in your immune system where infected or diseased cells are given instructions to die. While it may sound grim, it’s crucial to helping your body prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Recent research has shown that marijuana could play a role in increasing the rate of apoptosis in your body.
Why is this a problem? Your immune system needs to keep a very strict balance of cells. If your natural rate of apoptosis is given a boost by marijuana, that balance is thrown off.
The Effect of Smoking Marijuana on Your Lungs
If you frequently smoke marijuana, your lungs could be in trouble. The smoke from marijuana contains a host of harmful chemicals that include:
- Carbon monoxide
Inhaling these chemicals frequently can make it easier for lung and respiratory infections to occur. Your lungs have defense mechanisms that work to keep bacteria and viruses at bay. These chemicals from marijuana make it harder for your lungs to defend themselves, which can increase your risk for respiratory infections like COVID-19 and the flu.
Find Hope for Lasting Recovery at The Raleigh House
If you’re struggling with a marijuana addiction, we can help you find lasting recovery. The hold that marijuana has over you does not have to last forever. All it takes to start on your journey to recovery is contacting our expert team.
Our admission team can guide you through our intake process to ensure that you transition to treatment is as smooth as possible. If you’re ready to break free from addiction, don’t wait another minute. Contact our admissions team today.