Cannabis, an immune system-boosting plant, could offer hope for people who live with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
This chronic condition—which killed over 800,000 people in 2020 alone—occurs in patients who fail to seek human immunodeficiency virus (H.I.V.) treatment.
On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 37.7 million people will reportedly live with H.I.V. by the end of 2020. Statistics show that—although the impact of the H.I.V. epidemic varies by country—approximately 0.7% of adults aged 15–49 years endure the disease.
Without adequate treatment, H.I.V. puts intense strain on the immune system. Even with conventional treatment options, H.I.V. may still interfere with the body’s defense mechanisms. This is where cannabis might come in handy.In particular, cannabis’ non-psychotropic compound CBD (cannabidiol) has demonstrated potential for helping the body to fight against the disease.
What are the Dangers of Untreated HIV?
In most cases, untreated H.I.V. will progress into AIDS within 8-10 years. Once the immune system becomes depleted from the virus, a person will eventually be diagnosed with AIDS. Someone who suffers from H.I.V./AIDS-related immune system damage will have an increased risk of developing different diseases. Even the less severe diseases that wouldn’t necessarily inflict serious illness on a healthy person might prove fatal for someone with untreated H.I.V.On average, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with untreated H.I.V. is not good. The mortality rate for H.I.V. exceeds 90%. Although the typical time range between infection and death is around 8-10 years, an H.I.V. patient’s disease might not progress for a long time.
What are the Typical Treatment Options for HIV?
The most common treatment for H.I.V. is known as “antiretroviral therapy,” also referred to as “A.R.T..” A.R.T. involves the daily use of medicines via a process known as an “H.I.V. treatment regimen People beginning H.I.V. treatment will usually take pills and, in some cases, a shot.”H.I.V. purposely attacks and obliterates infection-fighting CD4 cells, also known as CD4 T lymphocytes, in the immune system.
When the body loses CD4 cells, it struggles to overcome infections and some types of HIV-related cancers.H.I.V. medicines work by stopping the virus from duplicating, thus reducing H.I.V. levels in the body (A.K.A. the viral load). Consequently, the body becomes strong enough to recover. Unfortunately, nausea, high cholesterol, fatigue, and sleeping problems are short-term side effects of H.I.V. medicines.
Where Does CBD Fit Into the Picture?
Cannabidiol, or “CBD” as it is better known, is a phytocannabinoid that was first discovered in 1940. It is one of the hundreds of identified cannabinoids in the Cannabis Sativa family plants. CBD constitutes up to 40% of the plant’s extract and is legal in all 50 U.S. states, although some states have imposed stricter rules than others. The cannabinoid has also gained steam in the European medical cannabis market, which is forecast to reach €12.7 billion by 2027.Scientists are still exploring the effects of CBD on H.I.V. and various other medical conditions and diseases. Still, existing research hypothesizes that natural anti-inflammatory could reduce oxidative stress.
Research has proven that CBD is a natural immunosuppressant and an immunomodulator, which means that the cannabinoid can suppress and increase immune system functions when the system goes out of whack.During the early stages of H.I.V. infection, CBD possesses the power to act as an antiviral agent. So powerful are CBD’s antiviral qualities that it has even caught media attention as a potential preventative agent against SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus).Furthermore, a study titled “Confound, Cause, or Cure: The Effect of Cannabinoids on HIV-Associated Neurological Sequelae” revealed that cannabis’ neuroprotective abilities may inhibit HIV-associated synapse loss and neural injury in patients.
How Can CBD Be Consumed for HIV?
The diversity of CBD adds to its overall appeal. A handful of consumption options are available to patients who use cannabis for H.I.V. However; it’s important to note that the metabolism of CBD depends on the method of consumption/application.Let’s take a look at some of the ways to use CBD:
INHALATION – One of the most popular methods of cannabis consumption is inhalation. CBD’s therapeutic powers enter the bloodstream rapidly after being inhaled into the lungs by smoking or vaping. Soon after, the cannabinoid and its metabolites reach the brain and other organs. Peak levels can be expected within 10 minutes.
INGESTION – This may not be the fastest option for people who want to experience cannabis’ effects, but the effects last longer than the other methods featured on this list. When cannabinoids like CBD are infused with edible ingredients and ingested, the effects tend to surface within 30 to two hours and can linger for 5-8 hours.
SUBLINGUAL – Cannabis oils can be dropped onto or underneath the tongue for 30 seconds before swallowing. The plant’s active cannabinoids, including CBD, are absorbed through the mucous membranes beneath the tongue. The active ingredients bypass the digestive system and are transported directly to the brain.
TOPICAL – In cases of H.I.V., topical CBD solutions may not be the best choice. Why? Because this method of application only allows for localized relief from inflammation, pain, soreness, and redness. Nonetheless, since some H.I.V. patients report experiencing pain, a topical solution could improve comfort and promote a better night’s sleep.
Should CBD Consumers Be Aware of Any Side Effects?
While it is usually pretty well-tolerated by most people, there is a chance that CBD could cause side effects. Examples of some side effects that may arise (depending on dosage and the person’s unique biochemistry) include dry mouth (cottonmouth), diarrhea, lack of appetite, tiredness, and drowsiness. CBD may also influence the effects of other medications (should you currently be using a different type of pharmaceutical drug,) such as blood thinners. Considering the dosage and purity will prove useful for avoiding unwanted side effects. Age, weight, gender, and tolerance can also influence CBD’s effects.
Cannabis, in general, has not yet been approved as a treatment for HIV by the Food and Drug Administration (HIV). Nonetheless, the potential of this cannabinoid is undeniable. As we move into a time where cannabis research efforts are being pushed harder than ever before, it’s safe to say that we will learn more about the safety and efficacy of CBD treatments for HIV in the foreseeable future. Currently, there is a lack of scientific research to determine the potential synergistic effects of CBD when consumed simultaneously with other types of HIV medication. Because of this, you should always consult a doctor before using CBD to relieve HIV symptoms. The same goes for anyone who considers mixing any medication with another substance.