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COVID-19 History Differences between Emerging Adult Cannabis Consumers and Non-Consumers: Preliminary Results from the Herbal Heart Study

Cataryna Senra
University of Miami

Co-Authors: Amrit Baral1, Bria-Necole A Diggs1, Ranya Marrakchi El Fellah1, Sarah E Messiah2, Raul Gonzalez3, Barry Hurwitz1, Claudia Martinez1, Denise C Vidot1
1University of Miami, 2University of Texas, 3Florida International University

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted health and societal norms globally, prompting widespread changes in behaviors including social distancing, virus testing practices, and vaccine uptake. Evidence showed that there was a surge in cannabis consumption during the pandemic especially among the younger population. Yet, there is a dearth in literature reporting COVID-19 associated behaviors among young adults by cannabis consumption status. Therefore, this analysis examines COVID-19 history among young adult (18-35-year-olds) cannabis consumers and non-consumers in South Florida. 

Methods: Data are from the ongoing Herbal Heart Study, examining the effect of cannabinoids and cannabis administration routes on subclinical cardiovascular risk among healthy young adults in South Florida. COVID-19 history responses were self-reported via the COVID-19 Cannabis Health Questionnaire via PhenX toolkit. Descriptive statistics and Chi-squared/Fisher’s exact tests, where applicable, analyzed COVID-19 history in cannabis users (CUs) and non-users (NUs).

Results: Of 150 study participants, mean age was 24.6 years (SD=4.5), 66.7% were female, 51.3% Hispanic/Latino, and 50.7% reported cannabis use. A large proportion of the sample (70.9%) reported exposure to someone with COVID-19, with CUs constituting the majority. About half (49.3%) of the sample lived or stayed with individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive, of which 54.2% were CUs. Access to COVID-19 testing was high (98.0%) in the overall sample. A considerable proportion (97.3%) had undergone COVID-19 testing since the pandemic declaration. Notably, 58.6% of respondents testing positive for COVID-19 were CUs. Fear of transmitting the virus to someone else reported by 51.3% of NUs and 34.7% of CUs (p=0.040). A notable proportion (27.5%) expressed fear of being diagnosed with COVID-19: 41.5% were CUs. Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, 83.9% of the sample reported isolating themselves and of these 52.0% were NUs. While a majority received the COVID-19 vaccine (81.1%), the proportion differed significantly between CUs and NUs (72.0% vs 90.4%, p<.01). Furthermore, a higher percentage of non-users (75.4%) received the booster shot compared to cannabis users (54.9%, p=0.022). Among recipients experiencing side effects, 59.0% were non-users.

Conclusion: Findings revealed that CUs had higher prevalence of self-reported exposure to the virus and lower engagement in preventive measures, such as self-isolation. Notably, disparities in vaccine uptake and booster shot receipt highlight the need for tailored public health interventions to address the unique challenges and perceptions within the CU population during the ongoing pandemic.