The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a microorganism that wreaks havoc on the immune system. Cells that are the components of the immune system, such as white blood cells, help the body fight infections caused by fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other foreign organisms.
Without this immune system, we cannot maintain good health for very long. These cells help create our natural immunity (our first line of defense) and our adaptive immunity (the dispersed antigenic response to stop specific infections). Because HIV destroys essential components of the immune system, patients are less equipped to deal with everyday infections and more serious microorganisms.
Although no in-depth surveys have been conducted of medical cannabis users in the United States, smaller-scale surveys show that most users seek relief from AIDS symptoms. For example, each of the three California Marijuana Buyers’ Clubs, organizations that make marijuana available to patients, visited by the IOM team recorded that more than 60% of their members requested a AIDS treatment.
CANNABIS and HIV: THE RESEARCH
HIV is one of the most widespread diseases in the world. It was the deadliest in the late 90s and early 2000s. Thanks to medical innovations and research, antiretroviral drugs have been made available to weaken this virus and improve the lives of patients.
Now is the time to discuss some studies exploring the relationship between cannabis and HIV patients.
CANNABINOID AND INFLAMMATION
Severe inflammation fuels many diseases. This very word “inflammation” has a negative reputation, but in reality it helps to survive. Upon contact with an infectious microorganism, the immune system releases inflammatory cells and signals the molecules to launch an attack against the invaders. However, some specific health conditions prevent the body from disabling this hostile attack. Over time, this process can begin to damage body tissue.
Although some components of the immune system are depleted due to HIV infection, others, such as monocytes, become highly activated. This can lead to systemic inflammation, which puts patients at higher risk for neurological, cardiovascular and bone diseases. Many HIV-positive patients also have an imbalance in their gut microbiome – the trillions of microbes that significantly influence immunity and inflammation.
Many HIV patients experience neurocognitive impairment and behavioral changes due to neuroinflammation caused by the virus. Different research teams have now ventured to verify whether cannabis may play a role in reducing inflammatory signals that give rise to this symptom.
For example, a study published in the journal AIDS Care examined the previous cannabis use of one hundred and thirty-eight HIV-positive patients to see if the herb affected their neurocognition. A comparable study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes observed the effects of cannabis on neurocognitive disorders in six hundred and seventy-nine patients with acquired immune deficiency syndromes.
What’s more study 2021 sought to determine whether cannabis altered lower central nervous system inflammation in HIV-positive patients. The researchers chose HIV-positive patients who used the herb daily, HIV-negative patients who did not use cannabis, HIV-positive patients who did not use cannabis, and HIV-positive patients with an average use profile.
CANNABIS AND IMMUNITY
Since immunity issues are central to HIV, it is reasonable that researchers seek to analyze the effect of cannabis on immunity in HIV patients. Although data obtained through human trials remains scarce, a group of researchers suggested a study protocol in 2019 to examine the impacts of oral cannabinoids on the activation of immunity in patients with of HIV.
The study design provides for the recruitment of 26 HIV-positive patients with an undetectable viral load for at least three years. The researchers would then randomize the recruits into two groups and give each oral capsules for 12 weeks; a group would be assigned capsules with a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio, while the other would get a ratio of 1:9. The document indicates that the study was approved by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. However, the results are still not published.
PAIN AND CANNABIS
A few hundred thousand patients worldwide are legitimately prescribed marijuana for a slew of conditions, and severe pain is still one of the most common. Studies target ECS to relieve neuropathic pain associated with HIV as researchers continue to uncover the role of ECS in pain signaling.
In addition to this, a systematic review published in 2021 delved into current preclinical and clinical data obtained from studies that presented endocannabinoids, cannabinoids, and ECS enzyme inhibitors against HIV strains. In terms of clinical evidence, the majority of investigations concerned smoked cannabis.
HIV AND CANNABIDIOL: POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES
The relationship between HIV and cannabis has not been established, as the data collected so far is inconclusive. Additionally, cannabis has obvious drawbacks that will challenge manufacturers and researchers over time. Although the plant contains over a hundred cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most present in the majority of cultivars.
While THC has mind-altering side effects (which can exacerbate various mental health conditions), CBD is known to produce stomach upset and fatigue in some people, as well as interact with a wide range of pharmaceutical drugs. .
Since being classified as a virus in 1981, the human immunodeficiency virus has claimed more than thirty-five million lives. The deadly virus originated in animals and spread to humans through hunting practices. As soon as it enters the body, the pathogen targets crucial immune cells, weakening patients’ immune systems and leaving them vulnerable to daily infections.
Researchers are now investigating whether cannabis could be linked to HIV symptoms as science continues to put the herb and its ingredients against a wide range of health conditions. So, is there a future to look forward to with cannabis and HIV?
Fortunately, support for legal marijuana continues to grow, and several countries have already established cannabis programs. As cannabis acceptance increases and human testing data accumulates, many more conclusions could still be drawn regarding the impact of cannabis on HIV-positive patients.
HIV RESEARCH WITH CANNABIS, READ THIS…
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