HIV & Aids
Medical evidence is mounting showing the ability of cannabis to help alleviate the sometimes severe effects of HIV on the human body. Appetite loss, wasting, nausea, pain and other effects are being more regularly reported alleviated by cannabis use.
Although people with HIV / AIDS have used cannabis for diverse reasons, including relief of pain and nausea, one of the most prominent reasons for use is appetite stimulation, especially by those with wasting. However, wasting or cachexia is not simply a loss of weight or appetite. Various factors and mechanisms contribute to the syndrome. One of the most significant factors in AIDS related wasting is the loss of lean body mass – muscle. A syndrome with a complex etiology, wasting may occur even in spite of an adequite dietary intake. Recombinant human growth hormone, Serostim manufactured by Serono, is the only approved drug shown to increase lean muscle mass with the possible exception of annabolic steriods. Its exorbitantly high price currently makes it a non option for many HIV sufferers.
Tumor necrosis factor alpha [ TNFa ] which the immune system produces as part of the inflammatory respose to infection plays a particular role in the development of wasting, by contributing to lean body mass destruction and in a number of other chronic disease related conditions 3 . TNFa also stimulates HIV proliferation 4 . There are no studies that show reducing TFNa levels, which are notoriously difficult to measure, will be beneficial in people with HIV. Nevertheless researchers have been pressing ahead to find ways to reduce those levels. Among other agents, THC has been shown to reduce TFNa in the test tube. In a study involving macrophages exposed to the excitory cytokine interferon gamma [ IFNy ] along with bacterial lipopolysaccharides [ LPS ], the addition of THC to the mix was shown to impair macrophage activation. Thw macrophages altered their responses to normal triggers like IFNy and LPS by failing to carry out their normal sequential expression of various protiens. One of the protiens the THC exposed macrophages were unable to express was TFNa 5 . Another study looked specifically at the effect of ” physiologically relevant” concentrations of THC on TFNa synthesis by human large granular lymphocytes [ LGL ], a type of white blood cell. Researchers found that THC decreased two primary LGL functions, TFNa production and anti tumour activity 6 .
It shows no adverse effects to the immune system and infact appears to show a lower HIV viral load in those using either cannabis or marinol. Could this be due to the lowering of TNFa by way of THC and CBD [ cannabidiol in the case of the cannabis] use? Also it shows an improvement in caloric intake and weight. At this point we invite you to examine the result chart of a study into the use of cannabis and marinol in people with HIV.
Other components of cannabis may also be involved in reducing undesriable inflammatory factors. Cell culture studies show that the essentially nonpsychoactive cannabidiol [ CBD ], in particular, potently reduces levels of TFNa as well as iL-1 7 . another inflammatory white blood cell secretion involved in wasting and HIV replication. In Vitro effects of both psychoactive and non psychoactive components of cannabis have been studied and found that concentrations of THC in CBD comparable to what would be found in the blood after smoking cannabis decreased cells secretion of iL-1 and TFNa, increased IFNy and had no effect on iL-2. The effect of these other cannabis constituents on TFNa especially provides a rationale for the clinical evaluation of cannabis in people with AIDS related wasting.
NZ AIDS Foundation 09 303 3124 31-35 Hargreaves St Ak Central PO Box 6663 Wly St.
Greg is a 38 yr old solo Dad from New Zealand……
“Thought I knew all there was to know about cannabis. Started smoking at 16 and after the usual teenage party years became a social smoker and at 38 still smoke today. A few months back I had to begin taking Nelfinivir and Combivir in an attempt to control my damaged immune system due to HIV infection. I was told ” only one in three seem to have bad reactions to the drugs Greg and of those who do the side effects usually decrease over time” Yea right! I must be the unluckiest person in town! After 4 months I still suffer persistant nausea .. insomnia .. some diahorrea and have lost weight to the tune of 6 kilos in 8 months, something never possible before. The worst part was when I “shit my pants” while out socialising one day recently. I was shocked at the side effects of these medications but even more shocked at the ability of cannabis to alleviate nearly all of them in one swoop AND instantly in the case of sudden unexpected nausea …twenty two years of social smoking in a responsible manner and I was still totally shocked at the ability of cannabis to relieve my awful virus & hiv drug induced nausea. Of course I always sleep well after smoking As we all know one does not feel like eating while feeling like throwing up last nights meagre helpings of dinner. Cannabis can remove my nausea instantly, as instantly as one becomes high, enabling me to feel like eating. A little later along come the beautiful munchies and I eat more. I guess I ask myself every day ” Why am I a criminal, why must I live in fear, why must I be denied a steady supply of medicine, why…?
I know my daughters ask the same. .
The following story was sent to us courtesy of Dr Marion Fry, Ca. USA……
Ken D. is in a protracted war. For the last nine years this thirty eight year old married mainframe computer programmer with a degree in accounting has fought the human immunodefficiency virus in his body one skirmish, one battle at a time. He is a long term survivor, beating the odds. A wiry intelligent man with a neatly trimmed beard to hide the lesions of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, KS, a form of cancer with many small colonies growing slowly in his skin and mouth with itching and discolored patches. His beard also protects from irritating the inflammation of the skin erupting from the side effects of medications.
Ken also holds a fungal pneumonia at bay. Pneumocystis Carinii, a fungus that is found most everywhere, including normal healthy lungs without causing symptoms, hecomes invasive and toxic when the immune system is weakened. This is one of many opportunistic infectious diseases taking advantage of a weakened immune system.
He wishes he could work but the terms of his disability status would cost him his benefits that see him through his periods of immobilization. The chemotherapies are specific poisons to target specific enzyme systems of the cancer cells or the fungus but are debilitating to the body. A major symptom is loss of appetite. Anorexia is a major threat to the body when fighting these invaders. In order to summon the strength to stimulate the immune system to resist, there must be nourishment. Otherwise, the body must consume itself to support the immune system. Ths loss of appetite, and thus weight, represents a major threat to survival. The weakness from inadequate nutrition leads to immobilization, stasis, and other complications.
Many of the therapeutic agents cause anorexia as a side effect, further suppressing an already poor appetite.
Ken had used cannabis 20 years but only occasionally in social situations. Since then, he has come to rely on using it daily to maintain his appetite while taking the various chemotherapeutic drugs. Not one to run from a fight, he has been a “guinea pig” in many therapeutic research trials that have had varying success in beating back the cancer or the fungal infections.
Despite the sensitivity of his lungs from the PCP infection that caused him to be hospitalized three years ago for four days, he prefers to smoke cannabis.
Two or three puffs of high grade Northern California sinsemilla twice or three times a day is sufficient to maintain his appetite and provide the antidote to the side effects of the antibiotic and other chemotherapeutic agents.
A Compassion Club success story sent to us by John Gordon . Finding out that I was H.I.V. + in 1987 was a shock and brought home the realization that it was a direct result of having been sexually abused by a catholic priest growing up and acting out sexually . My life in shambles I turned to an old friend for solace , Cannabis . I did not smoke it because I thought it was good for me ,I had been taught to believe elsewise but I found it to be a great comfort . I credit it from keeping me away from hard drugs during this difficult period . If nothing else the need to acquire it brought me out of the severe depression in so much as I had to socialize to get it and soon developed a network of close friends who I shared a warmth and intimacy with only in part brought on by the effects of the herb . A few of us even got very pro-active and set up our own housing society of ex psychiatric patients so that we could house and look after each other . It was amazing to find so many others who having been zonked out by psychiatric medications found relief in the slight euphoria cannabis brings .My doctors found that I needed less and less dehilibating psychiatric medications .I was happier and more active with my new found friends . However, around three years ago now ,I came down with pneumonia bad and it was time to look at taking anti virals . I accepted them but found they did not come without side effects . Nausea began to overtake me in the morning and I could barely hold down the pills my stomach would revolt sometimes barely making it to the washroom .My weight began to suffer either as side effect of the pills or effect of the virus I don’t know but only one thing helped ,only one thing calmed me and even gave me appetite and that was my old friend cannabis . No longer was I smoking cannabis just to improve my mental health and cheer me it was becoming necessary to be Well. I have gained weight ,my viral levels are undetectable and i can take my pills . It is not to me an addiction any more than its “addiction” when a diabetic needs their medicine .It is my medicine ,and it is only a happy side effect that it leaves me euphoric and I actually enjoy taking my medicine ,in fact im not the least bit glum about it . The only thing is that it is still illegal and because of prohibition must be acquired on a black market where prices are high to reflect the legal hassles you can get your self in selling it and the risk involved . It doesn’t cost more to grow than tomatoes and should cost the same . It would too if everyone was allowed to grow a reasonable number in their home and garden just enough for self and to share with some friends or to buy it at licenced cafes and medical buyers clubs and pharmacies and health food stores where controls can be in place to watch for molds and ensure its organic and free of nasty radioactive fertilizers and such . I don’t believe it should be sold in liquor stores as it is not as dangerous as alcohol and need not be so regulated even tobacco is less benign. Cannabis as studies have shown is safer than children’s aspirin . I do not suggest that cannabis is a panacea for everyone some people are bothered by its effects or allergic but I think it morally wrong to deny people the freedom to use this sacred healing herb for their own betterment when they hurt no one else or even themselves doing so .
3. Journal of National Cancer Institute Aug 19 1993
4. Journal of Virology April 1993
5. Cabral GA and Fischer-Stenger K. Life Sciences 1994
6. Kusher DL Cellular Immunology March 1994
7. Internationa Journal of Immunopharmacology 1991