Communal joints and blunts have long been a pillar of the weed tradition, and even if you grew away from them toward bongs and pipes, there is always the memories of rolling and passing blunts late at night with friends. You probably also remember the negative side—a wet blunt from someone’s lips, passed around to multiple people, accumulates and spreads germs.
Generally, we assume there’s low risk here—sure, you might catch the sniffles that your buddy has been nursing for a week or two, but that’s a low risk compared to the high return of friendship and camaraderie. However, there’s a more sinister risk lurking beneath your friends’ skin: oral herpes.
“If you have oral herpes and a cut on your lip, you could easily spread the disease by sharing blunts or joints,” said Dr. Carolyn Cegielski, a gastroenterologist from Mississippi.
With over 50 percent of the American population suffering from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the risk is not impossible. And as HSV-1 is mostly asymptomatic, the majority of people are not even aware that they have it, leading to easy spread of the disease
As long as you are conscious of cuts or nicks in your mouth, contraction is easy to avoid. But what do you do if you’re one of the sufferers?
According to CBS New York, a possible breakthrough in the fight against herpes is coming. Called Theravax and manufactured by biotech company Rational Vaccines, the vaccine is proving effective in trials and could potentially be a huge benefit for stoners everywhere.
Herpes contributes to a wide range of negative physical and psychological health effects: oral herpes can cause social stigma and and psychological distress, according to the World Health Organization, and an HSV-1 infection can potentially lead to an HSV-2 infection (genital herpes). With what is at risk, the stakes are high.
“We observed a significant reduction of symptoms, 65 percent of the patients achieved complete remission. The other 20 percent, the outbreaks were reduced maybe two-thirds or more,” Agustin Fernandez, CEO of Rational Vaccines, told CBS New York.
Theravax is now entering the second phase of testing, but it could still be a long time before it hits markets due to FDA approval processes. Fernandez noted that he expects the vaccine to go on sale first in the Caribbean and Mexico, where Americans can potentially acquire the vaccine if they wish.
“A vaccine of this magnitude could be massively important to the cannabis community,” Cegielski said.