Coronavirus: Medical marijuana smokers advised to seek alternatives during COVID-19 pandemic

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Smoking marijuana can increase the risk for more severe complications caused by the novel coronavirus, but how does that impact people who smoke for medical reasons?

Dr. June Chin specializes in medical marijuana and she's busier than she has ever been before.

"I mean it's 200%, a 200% increase," she said.

Instead of meeting patients in her Westchester County or New York City offices, she's doing it all through computer video conferencing appointments.

She prescribes cannabis for everyone from children to seniors with chronic and life threatening conditions. But the way she prescribes cannabis during the COVID pandemic has changed.

"The key thing is changing the way you're consuming it, if you are inhaling it," she said.

Inhaling is the most common way it's ingested, but studies show smokers are more at risk. And when people inhale marijuana, they can puff up to 66% more volume than tobacco smokers.

"So this can cause irritation, which you do not want during this pandemic," she said.

Since COVID-19 can attack a patient's lungs, she has recommended all of her patients switch to different forms.

"You can change formations of cannabis to tincture, liquid formulations, edibles in the forms of capsules or tablets," she said.

Plus, with local hospitals pushing back non-critical elective surgeries, Dr. Chin says many of her patients are relying on the natural alternative to get them through the pandemic.

"Just being that human support for patients at this time is key, because a lot of these patients are also alone," she said. "Families can't come and see them. They can't come and travel to them."

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