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Last updated on: 5/30/2008 10:16:00 AM PST
Can Marijuana Help AIDS/HIV Patients?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated in Oct. 20, 2006 postings on its website titled "What Is AIDS?" and "What Is HIV?":

"AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Acquired – means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (in this case, HIV).

Immunodeficiency – means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.

Syndrome – refers to a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells in a person’s immune system.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mucous membranes. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection."

Oct. 20, 2006 - Centers For Disease Control (CDC) 



PRO (yes)

The Institute of Medicine concluded in its Mar. 1999 report titled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base":

"The profile of cannabinoid drug effects suggest that they are promising for treating wasting syndrome in AIDS patients. Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana. Although some medications are more effective than marijuana for these problems, they are not equally effective in all patients. A rapid-onset (that is, acting within minutes) delivery system should be developed and tested in such patients. Smoking marijuana is not recommended. The long-term harm caused by smoking marijuana makes it a poor drug delivery system, particularly for patients with chronic illnesses."

Mar. 1999 - Institute of Medicine 
"Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" (988 KB)  



The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) stated in an Oct. 8, 2007 Reason Magazine:

"When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients."

Oct. 8, 2007 - American Academy of HIV Medicine 



Kate Scannell, MD, Co-Director of the Kaiser-Permanente Northern California Ethics Department, in a Feb. 16, 2003 article published in the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

"From working with AIDS and cancer patients, I repeatedly saw how marijuana could ameliorate a patient's debilitating fatigue, restore appetite, diminish pain, remedy nausea, cure vomiting and curtail down-to-the-bone weight loss."

Feb. 16, 2003 - Kate Scannell, MD 



Margaret Haney, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at Columbia University, et. al, in their Aug. 15, 2007 study titled "Dronabinol and Marijuana in HIV-Positive Marijuana Smokers: Caloric Intake, Mood, and Sleep," published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, stated:

"As compared with placebo, marijuana and dronabinol [a synthetic pill form of THC] dose dependently increased daily caloric intake and body weight in HIV-positive marijuana smokers... Effects of marijuana and dronabinol were comparable, except that only marijuana (3.9% THC) improved ratings of sleep.

Conclusions: These data suggest that for HIV-positive marijuana smokers, both dronabinol (at doses 8 times current recommendations) and marijuana were well tolerated and produced substantial and comparable increases in food intake."

Aug. 15, 2007 - Margaret Haney, PhD 



Donald I. Abrams, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, et al., wrote in Feb. 13, 2007 article titled "Cannabis in Painful HIV-Associated Sensory Neuropathy: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial" in the journal Neurology:

"Objective: To determine the effect of smoked cannabis on the neuropathic pain of HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, and an experimental pain model...

Patients were randomly assigned to smoke either cannabis (3.56% thc) or identical placebo cigarettes with the cannabinoids extracted three times daily for 5 days...

Conclusion: Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. The findings are comparable to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain."

Feb. 13, 2007 - Donald Abrams, MD 



Consumer Reports Magazine stated in May 1997:

"Consumer Reports believes that, for patients with advanced AIDS and terminal cancer, the apparent benefits some derive from smoking marijuana outweigh any substantiated or even suspected risks."

May 1997 - Consumer Reports Magazine 



CON (no)

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stated in a Jan. 2, 2002 email to ProCon.org:

"Marijuana can affect the immune system by impairing the ability of T-cells to fight off infections, demonstrating that marijuana can do more harm than good in people with already compromised immune systems."

Jan. 2, 2002 - US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 



The Institute of Medicine concluded in its Mar. 1999 report titled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base":

"The relationship between marijuana smoking and the natural course of AIDS is of particular concern because HIV patients are the largest group who report using marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana use has been linked both to increased risk of progression to AIDS in HIV-seropositive patients and to increased mortality in AIDS patients.

The most compelling concerns regarding marijuana smoking in HIV/AIDS patients are the possible effects of marijuana on immunity. Reports of opportunistic fungal and bacterial pneumonia in AIDS patients who used marijuana suggest that marijuana smoking either suppresses the immune system or exposes patients to an added burden of pathogens. In summary, patients with preexisting immune deficits due to AIDS should be expected to be vulnerable to serious harm caused by smoking marijuana. The relative contribution of marijuana smoke versus THC or other cannabinoids is not known."

Mar. 1999 - Institute of Medicine 
"Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" (988 KB)  



Mark L. Kraus, MD, Former President of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in his testimony to the Judiciary Committee in Hartford Connecticut on Feb. 26, 2007, stated:

"Marijuana smoked, like tobacco smoked, contains toxins and other foreign particulates that are known to cause inflammation in the lining of the lungs. Unlike tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke substantially reduced the alveolur macrophages, the lung’s primary defense against infectious microorganisms, foreign substances and tumor cells.

This is of particular concern for the immunocompromised HIV/ AIDS patients or cancer patient, who is already at great risk for opportunistic lung infections. Though the evidence is no means conclusive, chronic marijuana smoking may be a factor in the development of acute and chronic bronchitis, and increasing the risk of pneumonia."

Feb. 26, 2007 - Mark L. Kraus, MD 



Janet Lapey, MD, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Drug Prevention, Inc., in her Oct. 1, 1997 Statement to the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary in the House of Representatives:

"Marijuana is not the safe drug portrayed by the marijuana lobby. It is addictive; it adversely affects the immune system... Marijuana use is a risk factor for the progression to full-blown AIDS in HIV-positive persons, and HIV-positive marijuana smokers have an increased incidence of bacterial pneumonia."

Oct. 1, 1997 - Janet Lapey, MD 



Michael D. Roth, MD, and Donald P. Tashkin, MD, Professors of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, et. al, in their Aug. 19, 2005 study titled "Tetrahydrocannabinol Suppresses Immune Function and Enhances HIV Replication in the HuPBL-SCID Mouse," published in Life Sciences, wrote:

"Marijuana smoking has been reported to predispose to bacterial pneumonia, opportunistic infections and Kaposi's sarcoma in HIV-positive individuals, as well as to a more rapid progression from HIV infection to AIDS...

[Our] results suggest a dynamic interaction between THC, immunity, and the pathogenesis [development of] of HIV. They also support epidemiologic studies that have identified marijuana use as a risk factor for HIV infection and the progression of AIDS."

Aug. 19, 2005 - Michael D. Roth, MD