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Pandemic Weed: Covid Correlation or Coincidence?

Posted by Canna Randa on Aug 09, 2022

During the pandemic, many medical patients and recreational stoners chose to light up and increase their use of weed. COVID-19, in 2020, and beyond has impacted people around the globe. Personally, marijuana and covid went hand in hand for me. 

I know I am not the only one whose mental health and well-being took a toll during these past few years, and my saving grace has been cannabis. COVID-19 lockdowns, social isolation, and restrictions in the United States and across the world have contributed to depression and anxiety during COVID, and marijuana has helped. During this time, we weren't able to meet up with others, visit a cannabis lounge, or get a weed-themed tattoo, but we were still able to smoke. With economic factors like change in income and loss of jobs also bringing about stress and anxiety for numerous individuals, many people have turned to alcohol and marijuana to get by in these trying times. 

Turns out I’m not alone in my copious consumption of pandemic marijuana. COVID cannabis use has been an interesting topic for academia to study.  

In fact, a study entitled Medication and substance use increases among people using cannabis medically during the COVID-19 pandemic was recently conducted. The goal of this study was to see if medications and substances were used in place of cannabis due to the limited access to medical dispensaries. Some states deemed dispensaries non-essential businesses during COVID, and weed dispensaries across the nation were being told whether they were essential businesses or not, affecting the cannabis industry during the pandemic. 

In the US, 33 states had legalized medical marijuana at the time of the aforementioned study. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 23 of these states allowed their weed dispensaries to stay open while lockdowns were happening. The other ten medical marijuana states added dispensaries to their list of non-essential businesses during quarantine.

In states where dispensaries were not open during the pandemic, the lack of ability to purchase medical marijuana for qualifying health conditions, such as chronic pain, has been shown to have increased alternative substance use for some individuals. According to the study, most people relied on other substances, such as alcohol and other prescription medications, to deal with anxiety and stress during COVID. Cannabis, for many medical patients, has become a welcome replacement for over-the-counter prescriptions that sometimes come with unfavorable side effects. Many people were wondering how to get weed during quarantine if their dispensary was closed. 

In this study, the researchers hypothesized that concern for the limited access to marijuana would lead to an increase in substance use and prescription medications. A survey was done to answer this hypothesis. Some people increased their use of cannabis during quarantine due to anxiety and boredom. Others used less cannabis because of the limited availability, and they had fewer responsibilities due to being quarantined. Many people were adjusting to working from home, while some were out of a job. 

Nearly half of the respondents said that they increased their use of substances and medications, with an increase in alcohol use during COVID-19. Looking at the results from the survey, more than half of the medical marijuana users either started or increased their use of other substances and medications as well as using cannabis.

Another study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Adolescent marijuana, alcohol use held steady during COVID-19 pandemic, was published on June 24, 2021. This study surveyed a sample of 12th graders to see if there was a reduction in the use of drugs and substances for adolescents due to limited marijuana and alcohol during quarantine. The results of this study show that those under 21 were still able to acquire alcohol and cannabis as much as they were able to before the pandemic began. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic initiated lockdowns, limiting social events for these 12th graders, most reported that they still were able to access weed and alcohol.

Research done by the National Library of Medicine found that alcohol use increased for those who reported having more stress during the coronavirus pandemic. This study was done to see if drinking patterns were affected by the COVID-19 quarantine and how they were affected by stress due to the isolation and economic impact of the pandemic. The study found that 60% of the respondents said that during the lockdown, they increased the amount and frequency of drinking alcohol for many reasons, including anxiety, stress, boredom, and alcohol availability. 

The National Library of Medicine did some research on cannabis sales during the pandemic. Marijuana sales were shown to have increased during the COVID-19 quarantine in four states - Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. 

In conclusion, many of these studies suggest that proper mental health and substance abuse programs are necessary to cope with something as life-altering as the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who had limited access to medical cannabis to treat their health-related symptoms, they may have had to fall back on using more addictive medications that may cause more harmful side effects. More studies are needed to determine the impact of the COVID-19 quarantine and substance use, but overall, many people used marijuana and alcohol to cope with this time of uncertainty to keep stress at bay. 

Did you light up more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic? Connect with me on social media and let's talk about our favorite pandemic weed strain! 

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