HIV Researchers Interested In Cannabinoid Treatments Now
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a disease of the immune system that is a retrovirus, making a person with the infection highly susceptible to infectious diseases by killing off the white cells within the system. There are currently over 1 million Americans living with HIV, and over 36 million worldwide. HIV is considered to be a non-curable disease but with powerful pharmaceutical medication, one can have a longer life expectancy if they can withstand the treatments being used. The average patient with HIV is now expected to live at least 43 on average from time of diagnosis; this is much longer than earlier years where patients were give 7 to 10 years at best to live.
The new recent release of a mixture of medication that slows the progression of the disease called high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This treatment is not well tolerated by patients when taken as it causes severe side effects such as in the ability to swallow medications, nausea/vomiting and severe pain. Doctors offer additional pharmaceuticals to ease the symptoms, but most of these other drugs are either not tolerated due to how sick the patient already is or just do not work.
If patients do stick with their HAART treatment, many find that they experience extreme pain from neuropathy, which causes nerve pain such as burning, tingling and weakness. In addition to the neuropathic pain that it creates, HAART is known to cause insulin deficiency in patients who take this medication regiment. HAART can also result in the cause neuropathic pain that can be intensified by the diabetic onset from the drug. Most HIV patients who take the HAART treatment end up with diabetes type 1 due to the insulin deficiency that it creates.
If the patient ends up with neuropathic pain or low insulin levels and condition known as Maximum microvascular hyperemia (MMH) is likely to form as well. Due to the aggressiveness of the HIV disease and medication used to treat the disease. Although HAART prolongs the life of a patient, the treatments become harder and harder to take especially as issues like diabetes arises, which usually then triggers the neuropathy that eventually turns into MMH, which is also known as the death of healthy blood vessels, often prevalent in the feet. Patients explain that it is not pain you can ignore, and there is little that prescription medication can do to stop the damaging effects of MMH veins.
In addition to the side effects caused by the drug used to treat HIV, many patients experience severe nausea/vomiting, chronic exhaustion, and overall physical weakness as a result of the disease. Many patients also are sick on top of the HIV with rather serious infections like pneumonia and bacterial infection putting patients with HIV at more risk of losing their fight to the disease.
So where do these leave patients in a medical standpoint? If patients continue just to medicate with HAART, they may end up giving up on the treatment due to its extreme, changing effects it has on the body. Recent studies that have come to light we may now have a way to continue using the HAART treatment and offering patients relief without the use pharmaceutical drugs. Thanks to research with medical marijuana we are no finding benefits and properties that are useful for HIV treatment.
In 2007, investigators at Columbia University published clinical trial data in 2007 reporting that HIV/AIDS patients who inhaled cannabis four times daily experienced “substantial … increases in food intake with little evidence of discomfort and no impairment of cognitive performance.” They concluded, “Smoked marijuana has a clear medical benefit in HIV-positive [subjects].”
In 2008, researchers at the University of California at San Diego reported similar findings as investigators did a year earlier at San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California’s Pain Clinical Research Center reported in the journal Neurology that inhaling cannabis significantly reduced HIV-associated neuropathy and that by inhaling marijuana, at least, three times a day they could see a pain reduction of neuropathic pain by 34 percent. They concluded that smoking cannabis was well tolerated by HIV patients, especially ones that experience neuropathic and that it actually caused a reduction in symptoms by smoking marijuana it for the neuropathy pain.
Also by smoking cannabis to alleviate neuropathy pain, we could see a reduction in patients experiencing MMH symptoms. Some doctors are even suggesting that HIV patients use marijuana in addition to their HAART treatments. Marijuana is proven to make the symptoms such as pain and neuropathy more tolerable and demonstrated that patients are 3.3 times more like to adhere to their HAART regiment when coupled with cannabis.
Through recent discoveries being made from studying the effects of cannabinoids and HIV, some remarkable leads have been made, and developments brought to like about the cannabinoids benefits in treating HIV and its symptoms. Delta-9-THC administration is associated with decreased mortality and also ameliorated knowns having a chance of turning this disease around and stopping the progression. Experts now are seeing that if certain cannabinoids are added with the HAART treatment, they may be looking at opening a door to a whole new generation of treatments and therapy for HIV.