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Cannabis Use with HIV – AIDS

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first described the disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in July of 1981. As this epidemic spread worldwide patients found that cannabis helped prevent the “wasting syndrome,” common among AIDS patients, by stimulating their appetite. As new medications were developed to fight the HIV infection patients also learned that cannabis could control the nausea and vomiting caused by those medications. Kenny Jenks, a hemophiliac patient became HIV positive from contaminated blood supplies that he received to provide him the clotting factors he needed for survival. Unaware that he was infected, he transmitted the virus to his wife Barbra. These 2 Florida residents learned about cannabis and following their arrest for using the medication they were eventually able to gain access through the IND program. It was because of the high influx of applications into the IND program for legal access to medical marijuana by HIV/AIDS patients that the federal government made the decision to close the program to new patients in 1992.

Cannabis may also be helpful for AIDS-related neuropathic pain and AIDS-associated dementia.

Faculty Presentations on AIDS and Cannabis

Video – Cannabis & Neuropathic Pain, Dr. Abrams, Pt 1

img 2 abrams06b Introducing his study on smoked Cannabis (marijuana) in “Pain and Palliative Care”, Donald Abrams, MD, UCSF School of Integrative Medicine, presents methodology to the Fourth Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, Santa Barbara, CA – April, 2006. This presentation and subsequent publication early the next year was the culmination of a decade long effort to conduct a sanctioned study using U.S. government cannabis. Dr. Abrams eventually had to structure the study to show possible harms of smoking cannabis when used as medicine.

Video – Cannabis & Neuropathic Pain, Dr. Abrams, Pt 2

img 1 abrams06aIn the conclusion of his study on smoked Cannabis (marijuana) in Pain and Palliative Care”, Donald Abrams, MD, UCSF School of Integrative Medicine, presents the findings of the study on AIDS-related neuropathic pain.

Dr. Abram’s study was published in Feburary of 2007, as “Cannabis in Painful HIV-associated Sensory Neuropathy“, in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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.

Suggested Reading

Abrams, D. I., Hilton, J. F., Leiser, R. J., Shade, S. B., Elbeik, T. A., Aweeka, F. T., et al. (2003). Short-term effects of cannabinoids in patients with HIV-1 infection. A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Ann Intern Med, 139, 258-266.

Abrams, D. I., Jay, C. A., Shade, S. B., Vizoso, H., Reda, H., Press, S., et al. (2007). Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Neurology, 68(7), 515-521.

Ellis, R. J., Toperoff, W., Vaida, F., van den Brande, G., Gonzales, J., Gouaux, B., et al. (2008). Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(3), 672-680.

Additional Reading

Haney, M., Gunderson, E. W., Rabkin, J., Hart, C. L., Vosburg, S. K., Comer, S. D., et al. (2007). Dronabinol and marijuana in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. Caloric intake, mood, and sleep. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr, 45(5), 545-554.

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