The social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with high rates of infection has had an unprecedented effect on mental health. A recent CDC survey found that more than 4 in 10 Americans are struggling with pandemic-related mental health issues, including increased substance use.
“It’s hypothesized that recreational cannabis, medical cannabis and CBD (cannabidiol) use has changed due to COVID-19 for a number of reasons including self-medication for mental health conditions,” said Ziva Cooper, PhD, interim director and research director of the Cannabis Research Initiative, who has collaborated with Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist and professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“The objective of this U.S.-based anonymous survey is to understand if and why cannabis and CBD use has changed,” Cooper said.
The survey will Explore whether people who use recreational and medical cannabis have changed the way they use it to reduce the pulmonary risk associated with inhalation (vaporizing or smoking); it will investigate if and how medical cannabis and CBD use has changed for mental health conditions (anxiety, insomnia, depression) associated with COVID-19; and it will seek to understand if cannabis use (frequency and method of use) changed in people with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“It’s good to remember that cannabis dispensaries are deemed essential in many U.S. States and that delivery services now provide a method to obtain cannabis without the risk of exposure,” Cooper said. “This means in certain states cannabis is as accessible as other essentials and most likely more accessible than many prescription medications used to treat many indications that people cite as reasons for cannabis and CBD use.”
Cooper said she is interested in learning if people are using more cannabis and CBD because they are more anxious, depressed or have more insomnia than before the pandemic. If people are still using inhaled cannabis, are they still sharing joints and vapes with others? Has the pandemic raised concerns among users about the pulmonary risks associated with inhaling cannabis? Are people using CBD as a preventative against COVID-19 infections?
The initial survey will include 2,000 individuals across the U.S. to incorporate different perspectives from different areas of the country. The survey is expected to be completed by the end of the month.