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Will Smoking Weed Make My Flu Less Terrible?

The Scenario: It’s cold and flu season and your dumbass friend didn’t get a flu shot back in October. Now, he’s at home on the couch, wrapped in a comforter and fighting his way through chills, fatigue and nausea. It’s boring and unpleasant, and he has so exhausted the good options on Netflix, he’s considering checking out Iron Fist. Should he make life a little less terrible by reaching for his bong?

The Reality: There’s been scant funding for cannabis research and it’s been heavily politicized, so there hasn’t been a scientific inquiry aimed at finding weed’s effects on the common cold or flu.

“With regard to whether or not cannabis cures or helps the common cold, I have tried to conduct several searches on this topic over the years and have found no scientific evidence or trials that have evaluated this outcome,” says Laura Borgelt, a professor in the departments of clinical pharmacy and family medicine at the University of Colorado, who has done extensive research into the pharmacology of cannabinoids.

Borgelt says that there is a “theoretical belief” that cannabis may suppress the immune system, which could delay or interfere with the body’s efforts to fight off the virus.

But the effect on the course of the illness should be small, says Jordan Tishler, a Harvard-trained physician who runs InhaleMD, a Massachusetts-based practice specializing in medicinal marijuana. “I would not be concerned about the immune system in anyone who starts with a normal one,” he says. Tishler sees “no particular concerns about getting high while sick with common cold.”

“However,” he adds, “it may be unpleasant or it might be quite relieving.” As for the “unpleasant” category of possibilities, there might be a cross effect of the symptoms of the virus and the effects of the weed that may make either more intense. “Fevers can make you feel cold, so can cannabis, so that might not be a great combination,” Tishler says.

The Worst That Can Happen: For people with bronchitis or some bug that’s particularly battering the throat, smoking anything might be uncomfortable.

“Vaporizing and smoking cannabis might be irritating to the lungs, if you have an upper respiratory illness,” says Ira Price, an emergency medicine physician and the medical director of Synergy Health Services Inc., an Ontario medical marijuana clinic. He recommends getting your THC through edibles or transcutaneous patches in such a situation.

Tishler strongly advices against experimenting with any new types of marijuana usage while also enduring a cold or flu. “Oral cannabis behaves quite differently from inhaled cannabis,” he warns, “so should not be substituted without knowing what you’re doing. Getting too high while sick is unlikely to be more fun than getting too high when not sick, which is no fun at all.”

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What Will Probably Happen: Medical experts do not think that marijuana will significantly impact the effects of a cold or flu for a person with no other conditions.

Combing weed and cold or flu will not lead to some kind of bad high out of Reefer Madness. However, some adverse effects of marijuana use, like dizziness or disorientation, that creep up on some smokers may be worse when ill.

What to Tell Your Friend: As the “enhancement smoker” played by Jon Stewart in Half Baked immortally described, every experience is different on weed. Smoking a bowl is usually a fine way to improve your mood and may seem like a way for your friend to diminish his misery when he’s achy, stuffed-up, nauseated and stuck at home. Just be careful. The more unpleasant effects of toking up may be more unpleasant and a spell of fever is a particularly poor time to get too high. And if you’ve got a sore throat, reach for the lozenges, not the lighter.

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The pros and cons of getting high when you're sick.

I’m Sick. Should I Smoke Weed?

During cold and flu season, it can feel like there’s no escape from the sniffles, sore throats and piles of tissue. Some folks might be thinking about turning to weed to ease the aches and pains of a cold or flu. But is smoking weed a good idea when you’re feeling under the weather?

How does smoking cannabis affect healthy lungs?

If you’re experiencing respiratory symptoms, remember that smoking anything, including cannabis, causes irritation to the lungs. When you light cannabis on fire, the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant molecules combust and give off smoke that transports the molecules into your lungs and your bloodstream. With this smoke comes compounds produced by combustion that can be harmful to the lungs. Smoking damages the cells in your lungs that protect them against germs and dust, leading to more mucus production and the potential for bacterial infection. The increase of mucus also makes it easier for bacteria to grow and remain in the lungs. Lung issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia can turn into chronic issues with continued smoking.

How does smoking cannabis affect me when I’m sick?

If you feel like you have a cold or the flu, smoking weed really depends on personal preference. The consensus among doctors is that cannabis does not affect the common cold or flu. It can cause discomfort if you’re already irritated, but it can also soothe muscle aches and inflammation caused by flu or fever. Cannabis smoke has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects , both of which can help with fever aches and soothe a swollen throat. Smoking weed can also increase your appetite and help you sleep when rest is elusive.

While it’s up to personal experience whether smoking hurts or helps when you’re sick, there’s an increased risk of spreading your illness when smoking with others, particularly when you’re sharing a joint, bowl, or bong among a group. When all is said and done, you don’t need to smoke to cannabis to enjoy its benefits. If you have respiratory issues, consider tinctures or edibles in lieu of smoking.

Can I smoke cannabis with OTC medicine?

Most doctors recommend caution when using cannabis with over-the-counter remedies, as cannabis can sometimes worsen the existing effects of the medicine. These side-effects include dry mouth, sedation, blurry vision, and dizziness. Always consult your doctor before mixing cannabis with other medications.

Why do I get sick when I smoke cannabis?

Marijuana contains several active compounds, including THC, that bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are present throughout the body, including the digestive tract and the esophageal sphincter, the band of muscle that allows food into the stomach from the esophagus. Long-term exposure to cannabis can change the way these receptors respond and lead to symptoms of a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a condition that leads to severe, repeated bouts of vomiting and only occurs in long-term, daily users of cannabis. While the condition is rare, it can lead to abdominal pain, ongoing nausea, decreased food intake and symptoms of dehydration.

Many people take long showers or seek medical care when these symptoms arise, and they only stop when an individual completely stops using cannabis. The recovery phase can last days or months, and symptoms can often return if a person smokes marijuana again.

So, can I smoke weed when I’m sick?

The bottom line is that cannabis can better or worsen symptoms of illness depending on the consumption method you use and your body’s individual response. It’s best to consult your doctor if you’re considering consuming cannabis while sick. Also, consider your friends and family should you be thinking about partaking in a group session while you’re under the weather. Germs are easily spread when you share glass, joints and blunts.

I’m Sick. Should I Smoke Weed? During cold and flu season, it can feel like there’s no escape from the sniffles, sore throats and piles of tissue. Some folks might be thinking about turning to