Being an Asthmatic Stoner During a Respiratory Pandemic

Why I’m forcing myself to stop smoking weed during the Coronavirus outbreak

This essay was originally published on Medium.com. View it here.


As a kid, I was short, chubby, nervous, and asthmatic. (To anyone who knows me: yes, I am also these things as an adult.) From capture the flag to the Presidential Physical Fitness Test to running the dreaded mile, gym class felt like a bespoke hell. One time I even walked out of a kickball game. It was my turn. I left school property.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to let my competitive classmates down and was afraid to be humiliated while attempting athletics; it was hard to breathe. Even the slightest amount of participation used up all my breath and I had to sit out.

Even though I seldom show symptoms as an adult, my asthma is still apparent whenever I hit a bowl or puff on a joint. Now, in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve realized that I am compromised. Since my adult asthma is mild, I don’t consider myself at high risk, but the realization that I am more at risk than, say, my live-in partner catalyzed a dialogue in my head with a most prominent concern: my breathing has worsened since I’ve started quarantining, and I have a good idea why.

I don’t think it’s because I’ve been infected, but rather because I’ve been smoking more weed than usual. And it’s not just that I’ve been at home more; the abrupt, strange, all-doorknobs-are-suddenly-the-enemy world we’re all living in is starting to freak me out. While I don’t smoke 24/7, I partake relatively daily as a steady part of my “nighttime routine,” which seems to be starting earlier and earlier each day. However, I do occasionally go through non-smoking periods for various reasons such as traveling, having a cold, or working twelve-hour days. During these breaks I notice my body reverting back to it’s smoke-free, slightly healthier version: the tightening in my chest subsides, my allergies are less intense, it’s slightly easier to breathe, and little random coughs sneak out less frequently.

Because of the potential dangers related to the pandemic, I’ve decided that, until it passes, I have to stop blazin’ every time the clock strikes four-twenty. As an asthmatic, even a mild one, if I do become infected with COVID-19, I am more at risk than people without preexisting respiratory conditions, says WebMD and the CDC. Even if I don’t end up on a ventilator, if my breathing worsens at all it will scare the living shit out of me (and my parents), so I want to be careful.

This said, I don’t want to stop getting stoned, and frankly flat-out refuse to — I’m one more celebrity “Imagine” video away from losing it and I need an avenue to sanity that doesn’t involve the liquor store. My advice to asthmatic stoners such as myself is this: use the flower you currently have to whip up treats that will get the job done but not impair your lung health. I’m lucky to have stocked up on edibles the last time I was in Colorado, but when those run out, I will be heavily perusing Bong Appetit while my loving, frightened boyfriend looks on.

When my stash runs out, though, I will be counting my blessings and meditating on the things in life that make me feel whole: my beautiful friends with whom I am constantly video chatting, noticing moments of kindness like when someone takes a bag of hot dog buns out of their basket and gives it to another person in the bread aisle who looks stressed out, the ability to read and stream unlimited content online, and the stunning, unmatched, iconic beauty of my terrier. I’ll also probably continue to drink a fair amount.

The point is: take care of yourself, look out for others, occupy your mind, nurture your friends and family from a distance with phone calls and texts, stay inside, and, most importantly, stay positive, though — as someone whose quarantine schedule comprises only “10 a.m. – take antidepressants” — I know that’s easier said than done. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I really do think that if everyone is mindful and courteous, we can overcome this thing together.

By the way, I wrote this on the toilet.


Featured image by Dima Kosh

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