Marijuana and HIV: Can Medical Cannabis Help?
Marijuana and HIV have been strongly linked since the start of the HIV epidemic. Nowadays, educating people about safety has reduced the occurrences of this disease. Also, modern drugs for HIV are more effective than past medications.
Nonetheless, due to the increased access to medical cannabis, there is a potential that it can work in conjunction with traditional HIV treatment.
What is HIV?
HIV, or Human immunodeficiency virus, destroys the immune system. It attacks white blood cells, which defend our bodies against pathogens.
When we get infected, our white blood cells release chemicals signaling the immune system about a threat. These white blood cells then multiply and attack the infection.
Nonetheless, our white blood cells have their limits, and HIV can multiply by entering specific white blood cells (CD4 T cells). When this happens, HIV takes over and spreads throughout the body, destroying the immune system. This leads to severe infections like pneumonia, cancer, tuberculosis, meningitis, and more. When HIV becomes severe, it is then known as autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Medical cannabis for HIV
Like other conditions curable with cannabis, there is a need for in-depth research on cannabis to help HIV patients. Here are several ways cannabis can helps HIV patients.
Cannabis reduces HIV wasting
Cannabis can be the right treatment for the symptoms of HIV wasting syndrome. It can potentially treat nausea, chronic pain, anxiety, loss of appetite, and related symptoms. Despite numerous studies proving cannabis’s ability to treat different symptoms, there is still a need to research how cannabis affects HIV wasting.
The cannabis plant comprises potent terpenes and other cannabinoids that can facilitate healing through the entourage effect.
Cannabis reduces HIV related nerve pain and degeneration
Some HIV drugs usually lead to peripheral neuropathy, a condition where nerve endings become damaged and transmit “pins and needles” signals. Most people experience this uncomfortable sensation at a particular stage in life.
Nonetheless, peripheral neuropathy is very severe and causes a lot of discomforts. It brings severe pain and can even stop patients from standing or walking.
According to a study conducted at San Francisco General Hospital on the effects of smoked marijuana vs. a non-THC on peripheral neuropathy, 34% of the group that smoked marijuana experience 34% less pain, exceeding the placebo group. Furthermore, 52% acknowledged feeling a reduction in pain by 30% compared to just 34% in the placebo group.
The findings from this study proved that taking marijuana in different forms can aid HIV related nerve issues. Cannabis could help nerve issues without any side effects.
Bottom line: Can cannabis stop the progression of HIV?
Research at LSU examined monkeys infected with the simian type of HIV. These monkeys were administered with a daily THC dose, resulting in decreased rates of viral activity and enhanced survival rates. The administration of THC daily also led to reduced damage to the gut’s immune tissues, which is the main entry point for HIV and other infections.
This reduced the progression of HIV by a certain margin and facilitated healthy immune responses. This study is very influential and raises many questions; thus, there is a need for more in-depth studies.