Marihuana and the Immune System



Marihuana has been shown to decrease host resistance to bacterial, protozoan, and viral infections in experimental animal models and in vitro systems. Recent immuno epidemiological studies suggest that marihuana may also influence the outcome of viral infections in humans. The main substance in marihuana that exerts these immuno depressive effects is its major psychoactive constituent Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This cannabinoid alters the function of an array of immune cells including lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and macrophages, thereby affecting their capacity to exert anti microbial activities. Two modes of action by which THC affects immune responsiveness have been proposed. At sites such as the lung that are subject to exposure to high concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids contained in marihuana smoke, THC may alter cellular membranes because of its highly lipophilic nature. In contrast, at sites distal to the lung, THC at relatively low concentrations may exert its suppressive effects on immune cells by interacting with cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. No controlled longitudinal epidemiological studies have yet correlated the immunosuppressive effects of Cannabis smoke on the incidence of infections or viral disease in different segments of the population.


Natural Killer Cell Longitudinal Epidemiological Study Noid Receptor Decrease Host Resistance Marihuana Smoke 
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