Thursday July 16, 2020
By Erin Hiatt
Even when the world is not in the throes of a pandemic, blood donations are a critical part of the nation’s healthcare framework. According to the venerable American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. is in need of blood to help with cancer treatments, chronic health conditions like sickle cell anemia, traumatic injury, and surgeries. One blood donation can be used as whole blood, or divided into red cells, platelets, or plasma. In short, donating blood saves lives.
However, the onset of COVID-19 saw blood donations plummet. Perhaps this drop is due in part to wariness of venturing outside in general, or from worry about COVID-19 infection exposure in a healthcare setting. But blood donation is more important - and it should be said, safer than ever - especially as dwindling blood supplies desperately need to be shored up.
Eligibility of Cannabis Consumers to Donate Blood
Some cannabis consumers have wondered whether it is okay to donate blood, especially if their blood would test positive for cannabis. And the very short answer is yes! For the longer answer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that donated blood is screened for certain pathogens, like hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV, West Nile Virus, and Zika Virus. However, blood is not screened for the presence of THC metabolites or other cannabinoids.
This is good news for both the blood supply and cannabis consumers. The Red Cross, who provide approximately 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, is incentivizing blood donation by providing COVID-19 antibody testing in addition to the regular blood screenings, to help donors understand whether they have been asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
If your blood does carry antibodies, it may be used in the fight against coronavirus in the form of convalescent plasma. Upon recovery from COVID-19, the liquid part of blood called plasma should have antibodies, or proteins that can help fight the infection. Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19 using convalescent plasma, but its use is being investigated, and could potentially be deployed, as a treatment for those battling infection.
Even if you don’t have COVID-19 antibodies, you may have other antibodies in your plasma that could help people fight different dangerous infections, something that would only be discovered through a blood screening.
Who Can Donate
Now that we know cannabis consumers - whether you smoke, vape, dab, or consume edibles -- are allowed to donate, let’s take a look at eligibility requirements for the donation of blood, plasma, or platelets. Requirements vary based on donation type, but here’s a baseline to meet:
Blood Donation Requirements:
- Must weigh at least 110 lbs.
- Must be at least 17 years of age
- Must be in good health
- Must be feeling well on the day of donation
It should be noted, however, that blood donation centers will not accept your donation if you show up to your appointment under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, opiates, or any other drug. Other disqualifying factors are drug use of any kind (steroids, prescriptions, heroin, etc) administered via needle.
Is It Safe to Donate Blood During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The Red Cross says, “As part of our nation’s critical infrastructure, healthy individuals can still donate in areas that have issued shelter in place declarations or are operating under a phased reopening plan. The Red Cross follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need.”
If you have any questions or concerns, it is always a good idea to call ahead, and discuss your situation with someone at the clinic you are interested in donating at.
In some states, the COVID-19 curve has been sufficiently flattened to allow for phased reopenings that allow for elective surgeries that were put on hold to free up hospital capacity, so there could be even more demand for blood than before the pandemic. So mask up, wash those hands, and get to donating.
Are you considering donating blood? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!