Medical use of cannabis for HIV
By Dr. Girivar Singhal
Since the first description of AIDS in 1981 and the identification of the causative organism HIV in 1984, more than 20 million people have died. At least 40million people worldwide are living with HIV. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus (slowly replicating retrovirus) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows
Life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk. Within these bodily fluids, HIV is present as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells.
HIV infects vital cells in the human immune system such as helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells), macrophages, and dendritic cells. HIV infection leads to low levels of CD4+ T cells through a number of mechanisms including: apoptosis of uninfected bystander cells, direct viral killing of infected cells, and killing of infected CD4+ T cells by CD8 cytotoxic lymphocytes that recognize infected cells. When CD4+ T cell numbers decline below a critical level, cell is lost, and the body becomes progressively more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
The antiretroviral therapy on survival during HIV infection, there is an increasing need to manage symptoms and side effects during long-term drug therapy. Cannabis has been reported anecdotally as being beneficial for a number of common symptoms and complications in HIV infections, for example, poor appetite and neuropathy. HIV-positive individuals attending a large clinic were recruited into an anonymous cross-sectional questionnaire study. Up to one-third (27%, 143/523) reported using cannabis for treating symptoms. Patients reported improved appetite (97%), muscle pain (94%), nausea (93%), anxiety (93%), nerve pain (90%), depression (86%), and paresthesia (85%). Many cannabis users (47%) reported associated memory deterioration. Symptom control using cannabis is widespread in HIV outpatients. A large number of patients reported that cannabis improved symptom control.
The collective results demonstrated statistically significant improvement in half or more patients in symptoms of nausea, anxiety, nerve pain, depression, tingling, numbness, weight loss, headaches, tremor, constipation, and tiredness. Symptoms that were not improved included weakness and slurred speech, and statistically significant memory deterioration was recorded in 47% of users.
The sedative properties of cannabis, it is important to assess whether evening dosing for cannabinoid therapies is more useful or appropriate. Its sedative effects may be helpful at this time but none were reported as predominant. Presumably there is tolerance to these types of effects. More importantly, reduction of pain, anxiety, and gastrointestinal upset appears to be the constellation of symptom control sought by these HIV patients.
Dr. Girivar Singhal for The Marijuana Company
Before using Marijuana for medical purposes, consult with a physician.