Medical Cannabis and AIDS

Medical Cannabis and AIDS

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus responsible for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is a weak and vulnerable state of the immune system. Without any treatment, the life expectancy of a person affected by HIV is 9 to 11 years. Let’s talk about Medical Cannabis and AIDS.

AIDS is the most advanced form of HIV infection. At this point, the immune system is quite weakened or destroyed and patients suffer from life-threatening opportunistic diseases. In 2017, more than 36.9 million people worldwide reported being infected, of which 1.8 million people were newly infected.

Initial conditions that indicate the presence of AIDS are pneumonia and pneumocystis, cachexia, esophageal candidiasis, and recurrent respiratory tract infections. Opportunistic infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi, which are normally controlled by the immune system.  The most common systemic symptoms are sweating, fever, swollen lymph nodes, weakness, chills, unintentional weight loss and diarrhea. Patients may also be affected by various neurological and psychological manifestations.

Medical Cannabis and AIDS

Cannabinoids are the chemicals found in the cannabis plant. These molecules possess excellent therapeutic properties because they act on the human endocannabinoid system, which is composed of endocannabinoid ligands and endogenous receptors.

When cannabinoids and endocannabinoids bind to receptors, this interaction of elements causes changes in cells. This activation is very important for the normal functioning of the body.

These receptors are found in the membranes of the body’s cells. Two types of receptors can be found: CB1 receptors, located mainly in the central nervous system but also in small amounts in the peripheral nervous system; and CB2 receptors, located in different parts of the immune system.

A group of researchers studied the use of cannabis to alleviate a variety of side effects caused by antiretroviral treatment in HIV patients. This research reported that cannabis improved appetite (97%), muscle pain (94%), nausea (93%), nerve pain (90%), anxiety (93%), paresthesia (85%) and depression (86%).

In addition, there are already a variety of articles explaining the role of cannabinoids in combating depression, relieving chronic pain and reducing nausea and vomiting (caused by antiretroviral treatment).

Another study compared patients with two types of treatment: cannabis treatment and another type of synthetic THC, dronabinol. In conclusion, both groups observed similar increases in appetite and number of meals eaten, but only medical cannabis improved sleep.

Medical cannabis to reduce HIV and AIDS progression

Lymphoid tissue associated with the intestines is an important site for the spread of HIV. A new study showed that chronic administration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) resulted in widespread attenuation of viral load and tissue inflammation in animals (monkeys) infected with the immunodeficiency virus. The mechanisms in question were caused by a genetic change in gut cells, especially in genes controlling morphogenesis, metabolic processes, survival, and cell proliferation and programmed cell death.

HIV requires white blood cells to be activated and spread, but at an advanced stage of infection, the virus can also insert itself into resting white blood cells and activate them. This causes a much greater spread of the virus. Recently, researchers have made a very promising discovery: CB2 receptor agonists reduce the mechanisms of HIV infection. However, several studies are needed to better understand the medical potential of cannabis to treat HIV and AIDS.



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