What currently holds back more studies of marijuana (or chemicals associated with marijuana) and its effects on the body is a complex matter. Aside from the obvious political concerns, research scientists are not given much incentive to work on marijuana and its derived chemicals. Namely, funding is scarce from government and private sources, and there is concern that the fruits of research will not be made public because of the controversial nature of the drug. Additionally, many researchers feel their reputations may be affected by working with marijuana because of its status as a street drug and controlled substance.
Recent studies suggest that smoking marijuana may also decrease the ability of cells in the lung to destroy candida and bacteria. Candida is the fungus responsible for candidiasis, a common condition in people living with HIV. People living with HIV who smoke marijuana may be at higher risk for lung complications. This particular effect might be minimized or eliminated by baking and eating marijuana (as in pot brownies and cakes) — rather than smoking it.
Some recommend putting marijuana in the microwave for ten seconds to kill any fungus that might be growing on it. The exact time needed to kill the fungus will vary depending on the oven settings, the quantity and moisture content of the marijuana, and the wattage of the microwave. There are no standards for this, but in general, smaller microwave ovens put out less power and would therefore require longer “cooking” times to kill a fungus.
The oral drug, dronabinol (Marinol), was approved in 1992 for use in treating anorexia in people with HIV-related wasting. The active ingredient in dronabinol is THC, which is one of the main psychoactive agents in marijuana and the chemical that makes someone feel “stoned.” For treating HIV-related weight loss, THC probably helps as an appetite stimulant, in the same way people who are “stoned” get the munchies.
Overall, studies suggest that people using marijuana eat more but the food they eat is generally snack food, like cookies and junk food. They also exercise less and sleep more, all of which contributes to weight gain.
- immune function,
- lung complications (particularly with smoked marijuana),
- hormones, and
- mental state.
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences stated that certain chemicals found in marijuana may help manage certain conditions in some people, but that marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, is harmful. Though there is an oral medication (dronabinol) that is supposed to mimic the desired effects of smoking marijuana, many people prefer to smoke or eat marijuana in its natural form.
Marijuana and/or its psychoactive ingredient THC have been reported to suppress many immune functions. These include the function of cells important in controlling infections commonly seen among people living with HIV. Marijuana may also increase your risk for certain infections, including herpes and a variety of other bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Some of these infections may result in increased HIV levels. None of this, however, has been clearly documented in HIV-positive people.
Dronabinol is available by prescription through hospitals and pharmacies.
Introduction Buyers Clubs and the Law Safety Concerns Immune Function Lung Complications Impact on Hormones Impact on Mental Status Impact on Appetite Oral THC vs. Marijuana Other