Ongoing Research Projects
Mind Matters: The Impact of Cannabis Use on the Neurocognitive Functioning of Individuals with HIV/AIDS
R01 DA033156 8/01/2013 – 5/31/2018
Cannabis use is common among individuals with HIV/AIDS. Its medical use for HIV symptom management continues to gain acceptance and recent changes to state laws have made it increasingly easier for HIV-seropositive (HIV+) individuals to obtain cannabis. Although cannabis has therapeutic potential, its use is also associated with neurocognitive deficits. This is of particular concern to individuals with HIV, who are already vulnerable to such impairments. Indeed, a substantial amount of research shows that various substances of abuse often compound HIV-associated neurocognitive deficits. Yet, despite its widespread use, the effects of cannabis in this population have been relatively unexplored. Little is known regarding the type and extent of neurocognitive impairments that cannabis use may confer to HIV+ individuals, their impact on important functional behaviors (e.g., medication management), or the underlying mechanisms. This study addresses these issues by first characterizing rigorously how cannabis use and HIV relate to neuropsychological functioning in a large cohort of 500 community-dwelling adults, stratified by HIV-serostatus and cannabis use. The second aim examines how cannabis use may adversely affect important functional “real-world” behaviors of HIV+ individuals. The final aim tests a theory-driven model that includes several mechanisms through which cannabis use may directly and indirectly influence neurocognitive functioning among HIV+ individuals. This model is based on strong preclinical evidence showing both immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids. The results of this study will yield a more complete understanding of how cannabis use influences neurocognition among HIV+ individuals. Our findings have the potential to improve the health and quality of life of HIV+ individuals, further neuroAIDS research, and inform healthcare decisions and policies regarding use of cannabis among individuals with HIV/AIDS.