Marijuana Alters Brain Function of HIV Patients

Marijuana-Alters-Brain-Function-of-HIV-Patients

Intake of marijuana and abuse of alcohol and drugs could lead to changes in the brain of people suffering from HIV, according to a new study published in November 2017.

“People with HIV infection have many reasons to have cognitive dysfunction, from the virus itself to medications for HIV infection and related conditions, particularly as they age,” said Richard Saitz, lead researcher of the study.

He explained that these patients suffer from symptoms such as chronic pain and mental health issues, and thus they use marijuana, medically or recreationally. However, the study has noted that at least among people with substance use disorders, this intake appears negatively impact their cognitive function.

The team studied the combined effects of alcohol and marijuana on the brain function of HIV patients.

“Such an understanding could contribute to efforts to reduce harmful substance use and prevent clinical consequences, particularly in an era in which ‘moderate’ drinking is at times discussed in terms of possible beneficial effects, and in which marijuana is discussed as a relatively safe and even therapeutic substance,” said the study.

Saitz and team analyzed data collected from 215 adults suffering from HIV, who also had a substance abuse problem. The current and lifetime use of alcohol and marijuana of these participants were assessed. The analysis showed that there was no cognitive effects from past use of these substances. However, it was found that more frequent and current use of marijuana was strongly associated with a measure of reduced brain function.

The team of researchers said that around 40 to 74 percent of people with HIV are found with substance abuse. They hope that counteractive drugs would be available to help avoid the detrimental cognitive effects of marijuana.

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