Daily cannabis use has little or no impact on HIV clinical outcomes, according to new research. A study was published in The International Journal of Drug Policy suggests that heavy cannabis use does not pose a threat to those who are on HIV medications.
Data was derived from the ACCESS study, which monitored drug use among HIV patients. Between 2005 and 2015, 874 HIV positive patients in Vancouver, Canada were observed by researchers. 90 percent were engaged in HIV treatment over the course of the study. In multiple studies, daily cannabis use did not predict lower odds of the effectiveness of antiretroviral (ART) care. 670 patients, or 85 percent, achieved undetectable levels at least once. Undetectable means that the number of HIV copies is so low that they cannot be found in a blood sample and also that the risk of transmission to others is unlikely.
The AIDS crisis of the ‘80s and ‘90s was the original driving force behind California’s Proposition 215. Doctors have been reluctant to recommend or allow medical cannabis to HIV patients in the past, due to possible drug interactions and the unknown. “It has been suggested that high-intensity cannabis use may be associated with sub-optimal HIV treatment outcomes,” wrote researchers. The only exception was a negative impact when cannabis was combined with heavy alcohol use. The researchers added “With the exception of frequent cannabis use during periods of binge alcohol use, our results showed no statistically significant impact of daily cannabis use on the likelihood of ART care or VL non-detectability among ART-exposed HIV-positive [patients].”
Antiretroviral HIV medications, such as efavirenz, can cause vivid powerful hallucinations and kidney failure among other side effects. However, it’s those same medications that keep HIV patients alive and undetectable. Cannabis, on the other hand, has been used to alleviate side effects caused by ART medications, and studies have shown that cannabis suppresses the HIV virus itself.