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Why women in pain are turning to medical cannabis

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The current model of medicine has largely ignored the complexity of the female body

The current medical system sees women’s pain routinely dismissed, while complex conditions are often left undiagnosed and untreated for years. Now many are looking for another option. 

“From when I started my period aged 11 up until my early 20s, was a decade where I honestly didn’t feel listened to at all,” says Laura.

“My doctors would blame it on puberty and hormones and repeatedly prescribe me the contraceptive pill. But even on the pill I would soak through the heaviest Tampax and the night time sanitary towel within an hour.”

She adds: “I was definitely made to feel that I was exaggerating my pain and being dramatic about it.”

Laura, 29, was dismissed by her doctors for years as just having “bad periods”.

By the time she was in her late teens she was regularly missing school. Once at university, she would find herself bed bound in excruciating pain every time she got her period. Then sex became painful too. 

“About six years ago it got too much and I went back to the doctor,” she recalls.

“As I started explaining he immediately said, ‘oh, women who are promiscuous often have these issues’.

“I hadn’t told him my sexual history at all, so to be automatically labelled as being promiscuous when I wasn’t even sexually active due to the pain, was a real slap in the face and so unprofessional.”

After a full sexual health check and a trans-vaginal ultrasound Laura was later told she had a thickening of the uterus. It wasn’t until a few months later at a routine pill check-up that the nurse asked if she was on the pill for her endometriosis.

“I had no idea what she was talking about,” she says. 

“She showed me on the screen the doctor’s note that I suspected endometriosis. They had known for six months and no one had thought to tell me.”

It takes on average seven and a half years to diagnosis endometriosis

The body is a battleground

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, affecting around one in 10, or 1.5 million women – although frequent misdiagnosis and a lack of understanding in the medical profession mean this figure is likely to be higher.

Although there is no known cause, the condition is characterised by tissue similar to the lining of the womb that starts to grow in other places in a woman’s reproductive system.

It is commonly associated with pelvic or abdominal pain, but can also cause significant pain elsewhere in the body and lead to other symptoms, including painful sex, reduced fertility and fatigue. These can be completely debilitating and significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. 

Laura’s case is far from unique. On average it takes seven and a half years from the onset of symptoms for a woman to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis. 

This is exacerbated by the fact it can only be diagnosed for definite by a laparoscopy, a surgery used to examine the organs inside the abdomen. 

When Laura was finally referred to a gynaecologist and underwent the surgery, they found stage four – the most severe form of endometriosis – on her uterus, ovaries, bladder and pouch of Douglas.

“I’ve been told that the pain will never go away because of where the lesions were,” says Laura, who is now a reproductive health advocate and blogs her experience on The Endo Monologues, a satirical diary from the point of view of her uterus.

Once I was referred to my gynaecologist she was amazing and she took me seriously. She said I should have been referred months, if not years ago.”

Laura started a blog about women’s health and endometriosis

Like many women living with complex, undiagnosed health conditions, Laura was made to believe that there was something wrong with her, that her symptoms were “just the way her body was”.

There is a long history of women’s pain being treated differently to that of men. Countless women feel they have been dismissed, not taken seriously and ‘medically gaslighted’ –  a term used to describe the downplaying of symptoms with non-medical or emotional reasons by healthcare professionals – into believing their pain isn’t real.

It’s all in your head

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There are biological differences in how women and men experience pain. Women supposedly experience more severe and frequent levels of pain, for a longer duration than men and are more likely to report migraines, musculoskeletal pain, and pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Despite this, women are taken less seriously and are more likely to have their pain discounted as “emotional” or “psychogenic” and, therefore, “not real.

Women often have to make more visits to the doctor than men in order to be referred to a specialist and a 2014 Swedish study found that once in A&E women waited longer to be seen and were less likely to be classed as urgent cases.

If women aren’t taken seriously for conditions which affect both sexes, there is little hope for those which predominantly effect women and therefore aren’t widely studied in medical school.

The current model of medicine has largely ignored the complexity of the female body and many women are still unaware of female health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory syndrome (PIS) or vulvodynia, which often go undiagnosed and untreated for years. 

In her book, Sex Matters, Dr Alyson McGregor points out that the “male-centric medical system” doesn’t allow for the subtlety and complexity of female-specific health issues. 

“We have blanket terms for women’s symptoms (like PMS) but we don’t have a system for delving into those issues in a way that can consistently result in accurate diagnoses,” writes McGregor.

A report published in the Guardian last week revealed that women were twice as likely to be prescribed strong opioid medications such as codeine and Tramadol, with female sources telling the newspaper they felt “fobbed off” with painkillers while doctors failed to investigate the underlying causes of their symptoms. 

Last year a Government inquiry uncovered that serious medical conditions were commonly dismissed as “women’s problems”, contributing to a string of healthcare scandals over several decades.

Dr Sally Ghazaleh

Dr Sally Ghazaleh is a pain management specialist

Dr Sally Ghazaleh, female pain consultant at Integro Medical Clinics, and pain management consultant at Whittington Hospital, and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, believes a lack of knowledge among GPs, plus a stigma that still exists around women’s health is to blame. 

“A lack of knowledge at a primary care setting and perhaps women being met with scepticism, a lack of comprehension and feeling rejected, ignored, or blamed for their condition and experiencing a stigma towards women’s health, all contribute to conditions such as PIS and vulvodynia being undiagnosed and untreated for many years,” she says.

“At the same time doctors want to ensure there is no underlying cause that could be the source of the pain. Therefore patients will be referred to the specialist and by the time they will be seen this can be a very long time, which can have a huge psychosocial impact on women’s health.”

The UK government is now launching a review in an attempt to better understand women’s experiences of the modern healthcare system, including how pain is treated, which it says will create the first-ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy. 

Seeking validation

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In the meantime, many women are looking for alternative options.

Laura has used CBD to manage her symptoms for around two years and now has a legal private prescription for medical cannabis subsidised through Drug Science’s Project Twenty21.

Cannabis allows her to manage her pain without the debilitating side effects of opioids.

“I vividly remember after my first surgery, they pumped so much morphine into me,” she says. 

“I had no idea that a [medical cannabis] prescription would even be an option for me until someone suggested it.

“It would have been so much easier for me to go to the doctor and ask for some opioid based medication, than it was for me to get medicinal cannabis, but I don’t particularly like taking pharmaceuticals and I’d much rather take cannabis daily than morphine.”

Speaking to Cannabis Health earlier this year, Dr Rebecca Moore, a psychiatrist who specialises in trauma, anxiety and mood disorders, particularly related to women’s health, said she believes gender bias in the medical system drives women to look for another option.

“A lot of people come to us with stories of not being heard and of being dismissed, particularly from young women presenting with pain and perhaps unusual symptoms, with some form of mood component,” said Moore, who has supported hundreds of patients to access cannabis medicines since leaving her role in the NHS in 2018.

“There’s definitely something about the way medicine is gendered, that does lead people to look for another option.

“A lot of women have been told they’re depressed when clearly they are not, or they have been told that their pain can’t exist… I think it drives them to see cannabis as a route where they might be validated.”

Headshot of Freya Papwrorth

Freya has spent tens of thousands on alternative therapies to manage her pain.

Thirty-six-year-old women’s rights advocate, Freya Papworth, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia only two years ago despite being in pain since the age of 13. 

As a teenager doctors blamed her pain on the fact she carried her rucksack on one shoulder, then said it was the effects of a car accident she was involved in aged 21.

She spent years believing she was “going mad”, suffering from severe pain, major fatigue and constant sickness, before finally getting a diagnosis through a private clinic.

“I’ve been sent to a psychologist multiple times, because I must be crazy rather than have doctors take my pain seriously,” says Freya, who has spent upwards of £30,000 on alternative therapies such as private pilates classes, acupuncture, massage, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy.

She is currently self-medicating with cannabis while she explores the possibility of getting a prescription.

“You can see why more women are turning to alternative therapies. We are routinely ignored and disbelieved. Medicine is routinely not tested on women and we are often let down by the healthcare system.

“Then we are ridiculed for trying mindfulness or essential oils, when we’re just in pain and want to try and find something that works.”

The science to back it up

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Increasing numbers of women are finding cannabis medicines helpful in managing their health conditions.

Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2018, many patients have discovered that the rebalancing of their endocannabinoid system can be effective in the management of conditions such as endometriosis, bladder and nerve pain, gynaecological pain and PMS, as well as mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

“The endocannabinoid system plays a major role in many bodily functions, including sleep, stress, emotions, pain and immune responses,” explains Dr Ghazaleh.

“There are a multitude of cannabis receptors and endocannabinoids in the uterus and female reproductive system. That is why cannabis affects men and women differently and women appear to be much more sensitive than men to many aspects of phytocannabinoid action.” 

Endometriosis has been linked to endocannabinoid deficiency. Women with the condition are thought to have fewer cannabinoid receptors in their pelvis, meaning their body isn’t equipped with the tools that would normally prevent the growth of aberrant cells and destroy them. 

Studies have shown that when certain cannabinoid receptors are activated (either by the body’s endocannabinoids or THC found in cannabis) this could prevent cells from multiplying, while compounds such as CBD may stop the cells from migrating. 

On top of this cannabis is an effective painkiller, with its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to desensitise pain receptors around the body.

Ghazaleh adds: “In view of the significance of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive systems, medication that may interfere with cannabinoid action are now considered alternative options for women’s health.

Beyond the stigma

But many women are still reluctant to be open about their use of cannabis medicines.

Freya says: “It’s interesting the amount of women I come across who are curious about trying it, just normal, suburban women. 

“I don’t think many of us are being honest with our GPS, we’re worried about the stigma of being seen as a drug addict.”

Apart from her followers online – to whom she remains anonymous – only Laura’s mum and partner know that she has a medical cannabis prescription. 

Due to the nature of her job she is unable to disclose that she takes cannabis daily, despite the fact her prescription is legal.

“There’s still a stigma about cannabis in this country,” she says. 

“A lot of people don’t even realise they could be eligible for a prescription,” she says.

“Women are made to jump through hoops to get a diagnosis. Whether it’s a gynaecological issue or not, we are not as high on the radar as men are and the gender pain gap is a real issue.

“I think it’s important for women to know that cannabis-based therapies are available and that they might be more suitable for them.”

Laura and Dr Sally Ghazaleh, will take part in an upcoming webinar exploring the role of cannabis medicines in women’s health. The first episode on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm will focus on women in pain and their battle to get a diagnosis.

Other speakers include Abby Hughes, outreach director of PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) and Sarah Higgins CNS, women’s health lead for Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS). 

The event is hosted by Cannabis Health in association with Integro Medical Clinics and CPASS, sign up for free here

 

Endometriosis

My endometriosis was misdiagnosed as an eating disorder

Sophie underwent a laparoscopy in December that revealed she had stage four endometriosis.

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Endometriosis: A woman on top of a tall rock raising her arms in celebration of having reached the peak of the mountain
Sophie says cannabis helps balance things out and gives her more energy to do the things she loves.

Endometriosis is a painful, long term condition affecting one in 10 women in the UK. Sophie Harrop talks to Cannabis Health about coping with pain, cannabis and living with a hidden illness.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining womb starts to grow in other areas of the body. It can grow around other organs causing chronic pain. The condition leaves patients in debilitating pain, feeling sick and with difficulty getting pregnant. It can take on average seven years to diagnose in the UK.

Sophie was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 after experiencing pains in her side and severe fatigue which meant she slept a lot.

“I got diagnosed by laparoscopy in 2015 after I developed really bad period pains in the right side of my body. I started to feel like something wasn’t right as I was getting a lot of pain so I decided to go to the doctors,” she said.

“I got lucky in that some people can have endometriosis and wait up to eight or 10 years to get diagnosed but it only took me a year. I’m very grateful for getting to that point because it was very stressful.”

Doctors initially assessed her in terms of her weight and diagnosed her with an eating disorder.

“I’ve always been very thin but I eat like an animal, I just have a high metabolism,” said Sophie.

“When I went to the doctors, they thought it was something to do with an eating disorder or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There were so many different things that they suggested to me.”

Her doctor suggested she keep a food diary so they could track the amount she was eating. The diary proved that she was eating as much as she said, but she was disheartened.

“I can’t express to you how much I have something wrong with me, but it’s not an eating disorder,” Sophie continued.

“I’m quite a strong-minded person but to others who aren’t, I feel it’s very damaging. People are brought up to think doctors are always right, but I was annoyed they were coming up with these things.”

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Sophie had a laparoscopy in December 2020, which revealed she had endometriosis across her bowel and bladder. The condition is measured in different stages, that map the depth and areas affected by the tissue.

Sophie was told she was stage four which means it is the most severe. At this stage, endometriosis is now widespread and deeply implanted. There may also be cysts on one if not both ovaries.

CBD store owner Sophie in a field of hemp plants

Life with endometriosis

Sophie had been brought up to be a “tough cookie” and hadn’t realised how bad things were until her laparoscopy. She says her mother also struggled to believe that the pain was that bad, until her scan.

“I never realised how bad it was until the laparoscopy,” said Sophie.

“In your mind, you start to wonder if you have made it up, and my mum never believed me. She came into my room afterwards in disbelief at how bad it was.”

She added: “At the time, I was working at a builder’s merchants as a marketing manager. I was the only woman among 22 men, with a very strict boss. If I had days where I didn’t feel well, he would tell me to get into work. It was hard to be around all these men because I was in so much pain and no one understood it. That’s what I find with endometriosis, it’s so hard to express how you feel.”

Sophie, described a feeling of heaviness, she explained: “When it’s bad, I get this feeling as if I am 90 stone. It’s a feeling like I have something attached to me pulling me down. People can’t relate because no one knows what this feels like, but when you find other endometriosis sufferers, they understand.”

Endometriosis, mental health and ADHD

Sophie now relies on a combination of both medical cannabis and CBD to help her symptoms. She has also been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and finds this combination of eases the different symptoms of both conditions.

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At the time of her laparoscopy, Sophie was already consuming cannabis. She explained that the nurses laughed at her when she said she would prefer to treat her pain with cannabis, rather than the prescription drugs she was being offered. It was a chance encounter with CBD that piqued her interest in what cannabinoids could offer.

“My friend’s dad opened a CBD company and introduced me to it. I had a really bad sunburn with very badly burned thighs. He gave me a little pot of cream which I applied then the next day it was gone. I had to find out more about it, she says.

“Since then I have done a lot of studies and nearly completed a course on medical cannabis and CBD. I spend every day of my life learning more about it.”

The mental health impact of endometriosis which is another area which Sophie feels is misunderstood. She uses CBD to help her mental health, but finds that THC is more effective in helping the pain caused by the condition.

“People don’t understand the mental factor of endometriosis. It’s triggered by stress, so if I’m going through stressful periods in my life then I am more bed-bound and in a lot of pain. I notice with my menstrual cycle that somedays I have days where it feels like the world is against me.

“I take CBD every day without fail but when I had a couple of days off THC, I noticed the pain was still there in the same places, but it was sharper. It was like I had barbed wire in my stomach that was on fire.”

Chronic illness and sports

Sophie is an incredibly active person who takes part in a range of sports, especially hiking which she shares on social media. She wanted to show that not all chronic illnesses are visible and that patients should not be judged by what they post online.

She has now opened an online store and uses her platform to educate customers about the benefits of CBD. She isn’t motivated by the money when it comes to being in business, but wants to provide enough information to empower people to make their own decisions about their health.

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“I get a lot of people who say to me that I haven’t got endometriosis, and that I’m not chronically ill by judging me off my social media. It frustrates me because I would never wish the pain or illness on anybody.

“The reason I go out and do these things is that I have a lot of drive and could be in so much pain but will still get up and out as I would rather be in nature. It makes me feel physically better than sitting in my bed,” she said.

“I want to educate people to have the confidence to go try cannabis. Everyone is different and I want to be able to give people the confidence to do their own research and understand their own bodies. I’m not anti-doctor as I wouldn’t be where I am today without my gynaecologist and my amazing surgeon but at the same time, I wish people would think for themselves rather than just going off the doctor’s opinion.”

When it came time to choose the products she would work with, she immediately knew she wanted to include CBD coffee.

“I have my own coffee brand. The reason I introduced coffee into it was that I would always forget to take my dose in the morning but then in the evening, I’m fine. I created the CBD coffee because I thought it could be added into your life quite easily.”

Sophie finds the CBD industry incredibly rewarding to work in.

“I’m so passionate about this industry, she adds.

“People say to me that I’m literally the happiest person ever, but everyone has bad days. We have to have the bad days to appreciate the good days. I definitely feel my happiness and energy comes from cannabis and its helping to balance everything out.”

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Beauty & Skincare

David Beckham-backed CBG skincare line launches new products

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David Beckham-backed CBD brand, Cellular Goods, has launched a new collection of skincare and edibles that contain CBD and CBG.

The Cellular Goods launch is taking place nine months after the announcement of Beckham’s DB Ventures investment back in February 2021. The company managed to raise £13 million in their original public offering.

The Cellular Good skincare line contains serum, face oil and after-shave moisturiser. The ingestible collection includes a tincture, spray and capsules.

The skincare collection is the UK’s first CBG range. Their face oil contains ultra-pure, bio-synthetic CBG, hemp and grapeseed oil. The combination of all three is thought to hydrate, regenerate and smooth the skin while adding a source of essential fatty acids.

CBG is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties which may make it great for acne or blemishes. It may also be an anti-bacterial preventing infection. The essential fatty acids contained within different cannabinoids could have anti-ageing properties as they help to plump the skin and hydrate. All products are suitable for sensitive skin, dermatologically tested and dermatologist approved.

Cellular Good’s shaving gel contains some of the most popular skincare ingredients of the year including hyaluronic acid which locks in moisture to improve skin health and Niacinamide which is used to brighten the complexion.

CBG is the latest cannabinoid to gain interest, especially within the beauty and wellness sector. However, CBG is rarer and harder to extract than CBD which can make it more expensive.

 

Cellular goods: a hand holding a bottle of CBD spray

Cellular Goods range

The ingestible collection contains just CBD rather than CBG.

Cellular Goods was established in 2018 to develop research-backed and efficacy led products. The products are made using lab-created CBD and CBG which means the company do not need to cultivate cannabis which they believe is a greener alternative than field grown.

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Cannabis Health has reached out to Cellular Goods to determine the level of CBG within the skincare line. They had not replied at the time of publication.

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Mental health

Could medical cannabis help with HIV/AIDS?

To mark World AIDS Day, we examine if medical cannabis could help with symptoms such as nausea, pain and anxiety.

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On World AIDS Day, we examine the science behind taking medical cannabis to help manage some of the symptoms.

Wednesday 1 December marks World AIDS Day, dedicated to raising awareness of HIV/ AIDS and also mourning those who passed away.

The UN AIDS estimates that 37.7 million people globally were living with HIV in 2020. They also estimate that since the start of the epidemic, 36.3 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

What is HIV?

The first cases of HIV/AIDS were recorded in the late 70s and early 80s. As the first cases began to originate in the gay community, the disease was originally referred to as ‘GRIDS’ which stood for Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease.

HIV: A banner advert for the medical cannabis clincs featuring a doctor in a white lab coat

Human Immunodeficiency Disease (HIV) is a virus that affects the immune system. It damages and weakens the cells making it easy for opportunistic diseases or infections to get in. The body is unable to defend itself. HIV is found in the semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk of those with the virus. It can be passed from person to person but AIDS cannot. Most people with HIV, thanks to advances in science may go on to develop AIDS but live with the disease for longer periods of time.

How do HIV and AIDS differ?

Acquired Immunodeficiency Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)  is the name given to a collective group of opportunistic illnesses that occur after the immune system has been damaged by HIV.

The most common ways to transfer HIV is through unprotected anal or vaginal sex or sharing unclean needles. The NHS estimate that 80 per cent of those who contract HIV will experience a flu-like illness for one to two weeks after infection. The most common symptoms are sore throat, raised temperature, rashes, tiredness, joint pain or swollen glands.

Could Medical Cannabis help with HIV symptoms?

HIV and Appetite loss

One of the first reasons why patients began to turn to medical cannabis in the 80s to help with symptoms was to counteract AIDS wasting syndrome and associated pain.

The lack of appetite means patients may seldom feel hungry enough to eat or feel well enough to prepare a meal. Cannabis helped patients experiencing this to regain their appetite. It is estimated that the prevalence of wasting syndrome can be between 14 and 38 per cent.

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In the late 80s, doctors started to prescribe Marinol which contains synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol.

Joint Pain

Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve pain, happens when some of the nerves get damaged. It can cause stabbing pains, burning, or tingling sensations in the hands and feet. HIV and antiretroviral medications may trigger the pain. HIV When the immune system is weakened this makes it easier to get other infections that can cause peripheral neuropathy.

Marinol was often prescribed for neuropathic pain as well as appetite stimulation. Cannabis was thought to help with some of the nerve pain caused by early AIDS medication such as AZT. Neuropathic pain, which is where the exterior sheath covering nerve cells is stripped away exposing nerve endings resulting in chronic pain.

A review from 2018 suggested that medical cannabis may be a tolerable and effective neuropathic agent. The researchers analysed over 16 different studies with 1750 participants.

The authors wrote: “The evidence appears to support the safety and efficacy of short-term, low-dose cannabis vaporization and oral mucosal delivery for the treatment of neuropathic pain. The results suggest medical cannabis may be as tolerable and effective as current neuropathic agents; however, more studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of medical cannabis use.”

HIV: A red ribbon for World Aids Day resting in a pair of hands
Better sleep

THC may help with improving the quality of sleep experienced by HIV+ patients. One of the symptoms of HIV can be night sweats which make it difficult to stay asleep or cause poor quality rest. This results in increased fatigue which can leave a patient feeling more run down and stressed as a result.

Night sweats occur when the body is attempting to fight a disease such as HIV. This often accompanies joint pain, unexplained weight loss, fever and chills.

A study suggested that consuming cannabis with higher THC levels can reduce the amount of REM sleep patients experience. This means a deeper, more restful sleep which can lead to better, restorative rest.

Leaning into terpenes can also help. Some terpenes are thought to be really helpful for better sleep including Linalool which is found in lavender, geraniums and jasmine.

Better cognitive function

A study from New York in the journal, AIDS Care, reported that HIV+ patients who consumed cannabis showed the same or greater cognitive performance than non-users.

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Researchers took 138 HIV+ patients of which 47 had a history of cannabis use while 91 did not. Those with a history of cannabis use were found to have ‘better processing speed, visual learning, memory and dominant hand motor ability.’

Reduced neuroinflammation due to HIV

A study from San Diego examined if daily cannabis use might reduce central nervous system inflammation in a cohort of patients with and without HIV.

The researchers noted that those who consumed cannabis had lower levels of chronic inflammation compared to those who did not. Furthermore, the users’ results were similar to the HIV subjects with no history of cannabis use.

This may make it useful for preventing or delaying the development of HIV Associated Dementia which is where the virus spreads to the brain. It can cause memory loss, difficulty thinking, concentrating and speaking clearly. It is a progressive disease that sadly gets worse with time.

It may also help with HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder which is often found in the later stages of the disease. It causes progressive loss of memory, behaviour and motor function problems.

Different forms of dementia and some cognitive issues are thought to be caused by inflammation. It has been linked to a number of different conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, depression and anxiety. Although more research is needed to understand how cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system and the receptors in our bodies, a study from 2016 shows THC may be neuroprotective.

Authors wrote: “Cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol stimulate the removal of intraneuronal Aβ, block the inflammatory response, and are protective.”

Mental Health

As with any long term health condition, there can often be a lot of anxiety and depression around diagnosis.

Some cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are thought to potentially help with anxiety. It may induce feelings of calm, improve relaxation and also help with better quality sleep.

There is some debate over the balance of THC and CBD when it comes to anxiety. Some believe that lower doses of THC while higher CBD hybrids may help reduce the risk of worsening symptoms. Alternatively, some patients choose to balance their own ratios depending on their particular symptoms on the day by combining CBD and THC in different ways.

HIV: A variety of different ways to take CBD including capsules, skincare, oil, sprays and pwoders

HIV and T-cell count

When HIV enters genetic information into our T cells, it makes copies of itself causing the helper T cells to die. This disrupts our immune response allowing opportunistic infections to get in without detection or fight.

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CD4 are referred to as ‘helper cells’ that help the body to recognise pathogens with a protein called CD4. However, CD8 T cells are referred to as ‘killer cells’

Killer T cells seek out pathogens and help to destroy them preventing infection. If T Cells fall below a certain number, a person may go on to receive an AIDS diagnosis. Certain medications, such as chemotherapy, can affect a T cell amount so it is important to note if a new prescription may be safe to take or not with HIV.

One study from 2008 offered a longitudinal analysis of both HIV+ and HIV- men who reported that their cannabis did not have an impact on the CD4 and CD8 T cell counts.

How to get a medical cannabis prescription for HIV/AIDS

This requires self-referring or asking your GP to refer you to a clinic in the UK for assessment. The clinics will not be able to diagnose HIV or AIDS but will be able to discuss the options with you.

Medical cannabis is usually assumed to be the last option if prescription medication has not worked to control the symptoms. After an initial assessment, your doctor at the clinic can discuss if cannabis is the best possible option, what you can expect to experience and how the costs work.

A prescription may be offered in a number of different formulas such as oils, flowers or topicals.

What is the best way to take medical cannabis for HIV/AIDS?

There is no right or wrong way to take medical cannabis or CBD for HIV/AIDS. The best way is to talk to your doctor about what will suit your current condition and lifestyle. If a patient is experiencing problems with a sore throat which is common with the flu symptoms or fungal infection such as oral thrush, then swallowing edibles may be difficult. Alternatively, vaping may aggravate lung pain.

Edibles or vaping may be a better option if the taste of oils creates a problem. Keeping a journal of your medical cannabis intake can be helpful when it comes time to have your first follow up appointment or in assessing how a particular product is working for you.

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