Cannabis benefits for HIV patients

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The side effects of HIV medicine can be mitigated with the use of cannabis

HIV and AIDS are two qualifying conditions for the prescription of medical marijuana in almost all of the states where medical use has been legalized. It has already been shown to help counter the effects associated with pharma-based HIV drugs and goes a long way in providing relief to those who are dealing with the diseases. In addition to alleviating the effects, though, cannabis is being shown to go much further and can even suppress HIV’s progression.

Many of the lab-produced chemicals for treating HIV and AIDS can result in extensive damage to the body. They have been shown to reduce neurocognitive functions and increase inflammation, and many sufferers have had to take steroids or other drugs that cause additional damage, especially to the kidneys.

The effects have been known for years. In 2013, a research team out of South Africa wrote in Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, “Efavirenz commonly causes early neuropsychiatric side effects, but tolerance develops in most patients. There is emerging evidence that [E]favirenz use may damage neurons, which could result in impaired neurocognitive performance.”

Another study, conducted by Michigan State University (MSU), points out, “A high percentage of HIV patients develop a neurocognitive disorder called HANS (HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder). And what causes this, in part, is that there is a chronic inflammatory response in the brain, partly due to the HIV virus getting into the brain. That inflammatory response ultimately causes the damage and destruction of neurons. In the most severe cases, HIV patients can develop symptoms what you would see in Alzheimer’s patients.”

Despite the scary effects of HIV medicine, cannabis is helping in more ways than one. In addition to combatting the symptoms associated with the pharma drugs, there is evidence that it is helping to reverse HIV. According to Dr. Norbert E. Kaminski, who heads MSU’s Center for Integrative Toxicology, ”… When we began looking at the circulating white blood cells in HIV patients, we found that many of them have very high levels of monocytes [a type of white blood cell], and these monocytes were activated to something they recognized as being foreign. We also saw that in HIV patients that use medical marijuana — they did not have this condition. The number of monocytes in the patients using medical marijuana was very similar to our healthy non-infected controls.”

Kaminski and his team concluded that marijuana is helping to control the number of inflammatory monocytes, which helps prevent HANS. The MSU study’s co-author, Mike Rizzo, adds, “I do believe there is potential for the development of cannabinoid-based medicine to dampen the chronic inflammation associated with HIV infection. In our recent publication, we observed that HIV+ individuals utilizing cannabis had a lower level of inflammatory markers in their blood compared to HIV+ individuals who did not use cannabis. This would suggest that cannabis use is lowering the level of inflammation in these HIV+ individuals.”

The fight to lower or eliminate regulations on cannabis is probably one of the most important fights of the century. With only limited research, there has been a whirlwind of information showing how beneficial Mother Nature’s wonder drug can be in fighting a wide range of ailments and more research will only help better define the industry.