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Immunological Changes Associated with Prolonged Marijuana Smoking.

By admin | November 17, 2004

Source- American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
Nov 17, 2004.

Prolonged marijuana smoking can have immunosuppressant effects on a persons immune system according to a study presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

Mohammed I. Khan, ACAAI Scientific Fellow, Al-Junaid Hospital, Nowshera, Pakistan, studied 18 men between the ages of 25 and 60 who were long-term marijuana users, and found evidence that the drug, consisting of more than 426 chemical entities, has immunosuppressant properties. Specifically, Mr. Khan found that the active ingredients Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoid compounds are liquid soluble at high concentrations, which alters membrane function and results in alterations in immune cell response. Cannabus also has immunosuppressant properties resulting in reduction in resistance to bacterial and viral infection.

Marijuana, a schedule class 1 psychoactive control substance, is more frequently used by Oriental societies for celebratory events according to Mr. Kahn, who characterized the drugs principal effects as an altered state of conscience and euphoria. Prolonged use can lead to addiction and dependence. Of the more than 426 chemical entities comprising marijuana, in excess of 60 of them are cannabinoid, such as: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC has been associated with a craving for additional narcotics to enhance the euphoric experience. The immunosuppressant properties of cannabinoid cause impaired cell-mediated and humoral immune system activities, cytokine production, leukocyte migration and natural killer-cell (NK) activity. These chemical activities reduce the patients resistance to bacterial and viral infection. HIV positive patients are at higher risk of developing AIDS, infection by opportunistic bacteria, fungi, or viruses, when compared to non-marijuana smokers, and have more respiratory illness.

The 18 male patients had a prolonged smoking habit of more than six months. With a serum level of TCH >10um, Mr. Khan found there was a 20 times reduction in the proliferation of T lymphocytes, combined with a proportionate increase in the proliferation of B lymphocytes. This condition was characterized by a reduction in the cytotoxic activity of T lymphocytes, reduction in macrophage activities such as phygocytosis (bactericidal and tumoricidal function), antigen presentation of bacterial/ virus, origin and suppression of inflammatory cytokines, suppression of NK cells function as host defense against tumors & microbes.

On the positive side, cannabinoids also are immunomodulators. While they generally suppress the immune system, they also occasionally enhance some immunological responses. Mr. Khan points out that some people in the medical field believe that the immunosuppressive effects of cannabinoids might be useful clinically, such as in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Similarly, cannabinoids have been found to exacerbate existing allergies by attaching themselves to host cell proteins to form what is called an antigenic complex. This process elicits the formation of specific antibodies/metabolites in the form of a hapten combined with a body protein.

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., comprising 4,700 qualified allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals. The College is dedicated to the clinical practice of allergy, asthma and immunology through education and research to promote the highest quality of patient care.

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