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Will Smoking Weed While Sick Make My Cold Worse?

Here’s what getting high will do to your cough. I know, I didn’t believe it either

On a rooftop overlooking Prospect Park, crossfaded on an edible and hard seltzer (always on brand!), I remembered I was sick — and immediately regretted getting this high. A head cold had never stopped me from going out, but the cannabis was an unexpected factor. I realized I honestly had no idea whether weed could make my cold worse.

Turns out it’s a quite common question. On Reddit’s r/trees and r/weed, there are more than 50 posts from the last five years with some variations on “smoking while sick.” My favorite user response: “It’ll help. Just don’t destroy your throat with a huge rip. But smoking while sick is a lifesaver.”

Really? How?

smoking while sick from trees

For a definitive answer, I contacted a few doctors who specialize in cannabis research. Dr. Rachna Patel, author of self-help book The CBD Oil Solution, tells me, “Cannabis has no effect on the common cold or the flu.”

Can that be true? Cannabis has no effect on being sick at all? None?

Other doctors on the internet seem to agree. Jordan Tishler, a physician who runs the Massachusetts-based practice InHaleMD, which specializes in medical marijuana, echoed this statement to Vice in 2017. He has “no particular concerns about getting high while sick with common cold.” 

But smoking might prolong your symptoms. According to a 2017 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, smoking cannabis regularly is associated with a chronic cough and phlegm production. Anecdotally, I had severe persistent asthma as a baby, and today it flares up only after a few days of regular smoking. But the key to this study (and my asthma) is the word “regularly.” If you’ve got a cold and you’re already a constant weed smoker, your cough is going to continue long after your cold subsides. 

Still, it might be in your best to microdose instead of smoking if you have bronchitis or a respiratory infection. “Vaporizing and smoking cannabis might be irritating to the lungs, if you have an upper respiratory illness,” Ira Price, emergency medicine physician and medical director of Ontario medical marijuana clinic Synergy Health Services, told Vice in 2017.

Sam, my friend who supplied the weed in the first place, insists getting high always makes his colds worse. “It just exaggerates your symptoms,” he says, adding a skull emoji.

Can I trust the guy who supplied me with the head-cold weed in the first place? Will I ever take responsibility for my actions? We can’t know for sure. When I woke up the morning after taking an edible on a cold, I didn’t feel any worse, but I didn’t feel particularly great — although I believe it had more to do with the White Claws I downed.

Still, I’m glad I didn’t smoke anything. My recommendation to fellow degenerates: Microdose or eat your weed. Just don’t complain to me if you’re groggy in the morning, because chances are, I’ll be trying to do the same.