Marijuana and HIV/AIDS

In almost every state that has medical marijuana, HIV or AIDS are among many of the qualifying conditions that a patient needs to have to acquire their medical marijuana card. The human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is a virus that is typically contracted in the same way as an STD. The virus infects and attacks your immune system, killing CD4 T cells and other cells that help your immune system thrive. Once the infection reaches a certain point and your immune system is weakened enough, patients will often develop acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. While it’s often been said that marijuana can treat serious ailments like these, the real questions remain— how and why?


While medical marijuana research can be scarce, there’s a myriad of studies showing its effectiveness in reducing the effects of nausea. This is one of the main reasons that cannabis will often be prescribed to people living with HIV/AIDS as well as cancer due to the fact that their treatments will often induce nausea. Many HIV/AIDS patients can also develop nausea from gastrointestinal issues, central nervous system disorders, and from other ailments typically caused by the virus/syndrome.

Most anti-nausea medications have undesirable side effects, whereas cannabis produces far fewer side effects, most of which are relatively mild. Marijuana’s effects on nausea induced by HIV/AIDS has been well documented, and substitutes can seem to do the trick as well. A study published in 1995 showed that dronabinol, a chemically synthesized form of THC showed an average improvement of roughly 20% in AIDS-induced nausea in patients. And while THC substitutes like dronabinol and marinol can get the job done, many patients have come to the consensus that smoked or vaporized cannabis is superior. In addition to inhaling cannabinoids and other medicinally beneficial chemicals in cannabis, patients will also get an immediate effect. Whereas when ingesting a THC capsule you may have to wait hours until the desired effect is achieved.

This brings us to the munchies! While for many this side effect can be an undesired one, for those looking to eat a meal the munchies can always be a welcome feeling. In addition to reducing nausea, cannabis has also been proven time and time again to increase the appetite of those who smoke it. A study in 2005 showed that out of 523 patients who had HIV, 143 of them used medical cannabis in some form or another. Of those 143 patients, 97% of them confirmed that they had shown an improved appetite since ingesting medical marijuana. Many studies have shown that HIV patients, after smoking or orally taking cannabis for a period of time their weight would increase; with many patients gaining as much 2 lbs in just four days.

Chronic pain can also be a common symptom due to many various maladies caused by HIV. In a 2011 study conducted on 296 HIV patients, roughly 53% reported that they had severe pain, 38% had moderate pain, and 8% had mild pain. In addition to typically having joint, nerve, or muscle pain, peripheral neuropathy is a common disease many HIV patients end up dealing with. This is another point in which medical cannabis can lend a helping hand. Peripheral neuropathy is a disease in which one more nerves in the peripheral nervous system is damaged. This can lead to pain, twitching, muscle loss as well as have impaired coordination. A study published in 2007 shows that cannabis can help manage pain associated with peripheral neuropathy. The study found that pain was reduced by over 30% in 52% of the group of HIV patients who used cannabis. Pain related to peripheral neuropathy is also linked with inflammation. Cannabinoids (a group of chemicals found in cannabis) have been shown to reduce inflammation. So in cases where inflammation is one of the causes of pain, it’s always good to get strains high in CBDs.

While there has been some research regarding cannabis actual effects on HIV, more needs to be done before making any solid conclusions on the subject. But for any patient with HIV, medical cannabis can certainly help manage many of the symptoms and ailments associated with having the virus.

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