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Shocking Study Reveals Smokers and Cannabis Users at Greater Risk for Severe COVID-19 – Are You at Risk?

A recent cohort study published in JAMA Network Open has uncovered alarming connections between substance use and severe outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Researchers from the United States have found that smokers and cannabis users are at a significantly higher risk of hospitalization and other adverse health outcomes when infected with the virus.

COVID-19 continues to pose a major public health threat, causing substantial morbidity and mortality worldwide. Despite widespread vaccination efforts, with 76% of US adults partially vaccinated, issues like vaccine hesitancy and emerging virus variants emphasize the need to identify all possible contributors to severe outcomes. While factors like age, sex, race, and comorbidities are well-known determinants of COVID-19 severity, the impact of modifiable factors like substance use has been less clear—until now.

In this study, researchers utilized electronic health records (EHR) from 72,501 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between February 2020 and January 2022. They specifically looked at the effects of tobacco smoking and cannabis use on COVID-19 outcomes such as hospitalization, ICU admission, and all-cause mortality. The findings were stark: both current and former smokers faced significantly higher risks of hospitalization, ICU admission, and mortality compared to non-smokers. Current smokers, in particular, had a higher probability of hospitalization than former smokers.

Cannabis users also fared poorly. The study revealed that current cannabis use was significantly associated with increased risks of hospitalization (by 80%) and ICU admission (by 27%), although it did not appear to raise the risk of mortality. These risks persisted even after adjusting for a variety of demographic and health-related factors, highlighting cannabis use as an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes.

The study's results underscore the urgent need for public health initiatives to address the risks associated with smoking and cannabis use, particularly during the ongoing pandemic. While smoking has long been recognized as detrimental to respiratory health, the added dangers it poses in the context of COVID-19 cannot be ignored. Similarly, the perception of cannabis as a relatively harmless substance must be reevaluated in light of these findings.

Interestingly, the study also noted that individuals who smoked were less likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, adding another layer of risk. In contrast, cannabis use did not seem to affect vaccine uptake significantly.

Beyond smoking and cannabis, the researchers also examined the impact of other substances. They found that alcohol abuse and vaping were linked to higher hospitalization risks, though data limitations prevented a thorough analysis of their effects on ICU admission and mortality.

Despite its significant findings, the study did have some limitations. It relied on self-reported data for substance use, which can be inconsistent. Additionally, the study's design could not account for all potential confounding factors, and the patient sample may not be fully representative of the general population.

In conclusion, the study provides compelling evidence that both smoking and cannabis use substantially increase the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. These findings highlight a critical area for public health intervention and the need for further research into the impact of substance use on COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, addressing these risks could save lives and reduce the burden on healthcare systems.

Are you aware that smoking and cannabis use can increase the severity of COVID-19 outcomes?

  • Yes, and it concerns me.

  • No, but now I am.

  • Unsure, need more information.


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