CannaTrials adheres to evidence-based medicine – making statements based on medical evidence.
This page is excerpted and quoted from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. A Committee of over 40 experts, researchers, and reviewers in The Health and Medicine Division published a 486 page report in 2017 entitled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.”
If you would like to access the entire report you may do so by clicking this link.
Medical Marijuana and Immune Competence
“In several of the studies reviewed below, the effects of cannabis use on immune competence were assessed via direct measurement of specific immune effect or functions in healthy individuals. The primary advantage of evaluating specific immune responses is that the immune system is composed of many different cell types, each of which performs several distinct functions. Assessing specific immune responses provides more information on whether, how, and to what extent an agent such as cannabis affects particular cells in the immune system. Although the perturbations in immune competence discussed in this section are not health effects in the sense used throughout this report, they may alter a person’s susceptibility to infection or have broad effects on immune competence, and they are reviewed for that reason.
The challenge with this type of information is that it is difficult to ascertain whether a deficit in a specific immune function, unless extreme, necessarily results in greater susceptibility to infection by a pathogen. Conversely, it is difficult to extrapolate results showing enhanced immune responsiveness due to exposure to an agent and to determine whether that exposure may lead to an increased incidence of hypersensitivity or autoimmune disease. Therefore, the evaluation of immune competence requires a comprehensive assessment of a broad range of different cell types and their functions, which to date has not been conducted in cannabis users.
One trend that appeared to be supported by several studies was the observation that regular exposure to cannabis smoke decreased several regulatory factors that are secreted by leukocytes and that are well established in mediating inflammation. Consistent with the premise that cannabinoids may possess anti-inflammatory activity, one study showed an enhanced production of an anti-inflammatory mediator, which could be indicative of a decline in immune competence (Abo-Elnazar et al., 2014). By contrast, anti-inflammatory activity of cannabis, under certain conditions, could be beneficial because inflammation is a key event in the processes of many diseases. For example, chronic inflammation is believed to be central in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders and anti-inflammatory activity of cannabis could potentially be beneficial in decreasing the progression of neurocognitive decline (Gill and Kolson, 2014). The finding that cannabinoids may possess anti-inflammatory activity is consistent with findings in studies conducted in experimental animal and in cell culture experiments (Klein, 2005).
The limitations of the studies conducted to date are numerous, with the most significant being the absence of a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of cannabis smoke on immune competence. In addition, several of the studies used a small number of study participants with very limited information on the study participants’ level of exposure to cannabis. Based on the very limited evaluations of only a few immune parameters, it is not possible to draw overarching conclusions concerning the effects of cannabis smoke or cannabinoids on immune competence.
8-1(a) There is limited evidence of a statistical association between cannabis smoking and a decrease in the production of several inflammatory cytokines in healthy individuals.
8-1(b) There is insufficient evidence to support or refute a statistical association between cannabis smoking and other adverse immune cell responses in healthy individuals. “
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