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Scientists discover smoking weed could benefit HIV patients

Roll ’em up — in the name of science.

A new Michigan State University study recently found that a chemical present in marijuana may be able to slow mental decline in HIV patients. Nearly 50 percent of HIV patients experience a decrease in cognitive ability over time due to the fact that the virus attacks the human immune system, sometimes causing “chronic inflammation” in the brain, the researchers wrote.

The lead author of the study, Norbert Kaminski, and his co-author, Mike Rizzo, discovered that chemical compounds in THC — formally known as tetrahydrocannabinol — reduced the number of inflamed white blood cells present in HIV patients. “This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer,” Rizzo told MSU Today.

Kaminski and Rizzo came to their conclusion after taking blood samples from 40 HIV patients and analyzing the inflammation levels in white blood cells for smokers and non-smokers. The pot-smoking patients fared far better than their sober counterparts, the researchers found. The results were stark: “Those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV,” Kaminski said.

The scientists did caution that marijuana consumption won’t entirely prevent white blood cell inflammation, and they also had some good news for HIV patients who don’t want to smoke pot. Knowing the medicinal benefits of THC could lead to alternate treatment methods, like “people taking a pill that has some of the key compounds found in the marijuana plant,” Kaminski said.

Read the full study here.