Regular medical cannabis use may reduce chronic neurological inflammation in patients with HIV (PWH), according to new research published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
Previous research studies have found that HIV patients who use cannabis tend to have lower rates of neurocognitive impairment than those who do not. While most of these studies were unable to explore the biological mechanism responsible for this phenomenon, one recent study found that HIV patients who used cannabis recently showed reduced signs of inflammation.
To explore the issue further, researchers from the University of California, San Diego conducted a new study to discover whether cannabis could help reduce CNS (central nervous system) inflammation in people with HIV.
The research team recruited 198 HIV+ subjects, including 105 who did not use cannabis, 62 who used cannabis moderately, and 31 who used medical pot daily. As a control group, the researchers selected an additional 65 subjects who were HIV-negative and did not use cannabis at all.
The researchers used Kruskal-Wallis tests to test for inflammation biomarkers in the subjects' blood and cerebrospinal fluid. These tests monitor for increased levels of specific proteins that can indicate whether a person is experiencing neural inflammation.
Patients who used cannabis every day were found to have significantly lower levels of chronic inflammation than those who did not use medical marijuana. In fact, the inflammation levels of cannabis-using PWH were similar to those of patients who did not have HIV.
Researchers also conducted a number of standard cognitive performance tests and found that HIV+ patients who used cannabis daily performed better than HIV+ subjects who did not use it at all, confirming the findings of prior studies.
“Taken together, findings are consistent with the notion that cannabinoids may modulate inflammatory processes in PWH, specifically in the CNS, and suggest a link between lower CNS inflammation and better neurocognitive function,” the study authors wrote, according to NORML. “Future studies in PWH are needed to investigate potential distinct effects of specific cannabinoids, and adult medicinal use, on brain structure and function.”
Although research on using cannabis to treat neuroinflammation in HIV patients is still in its early days, scientists have more thoroughly explored using medical pot to treat other forms of inflammation. Millions of people are already using CBD to treat muscular inflammation and sports-related injuries, and recent research has suggested that CBD may also be able to reduce lung inflammation associated with COVID infections.
Researchers are also exploring whether CBD or other cannabinoids could help treat other inflammation-related conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), fibromyalgia, and even injuries caused by strokes or head trauma.