Is The Immune System Affected By Marijuana Smoking?

Approximately 40 years ago, there was some initial marijuana research performed showing a potential link between suppression of the immune system and smoking marijuana.

There are those who consider marijuana to put smokers at increased risk of infection, and can potentially harm the ability of AIDS patients to fight off infection considering those individuals already have a decreased baseline immune system.

A researcher named Nahas in the 1970’s evaluated T cells of both non marijuana smokers along with smokers. T cells help fight infections. The initial study showed weakened immune responses in the smokers’ T cells, leading the researcher to say marijuana was therefore dangerous because of the resulting weakened immune system.

Interestingly, multiple subsequent researchers have not been able to duplicate Nahas’ findings, and neither has Nahas himself. Those studies have shown no difference between the T cell immune responses of marijuana users versus non-users.

Animal studies have evaluated THC in extremely high doses and shown some immune impairment, however, those results have never been replicated in humans.

Back in 1985 when the FDA was approving Marinol a synthetic THC, the FDA could not link evidence of THC causing immune dysfunction. They looked at lots of research of THC’s effects on the human body.

There is a legitimate question of whether or not smoking marijuana deleteriously affects one’s lungs. Marijuana smoke is not too dissimilar to tobacco smoke in that they both contain hazardous toxins.

Another legitimate concern is when AIDS patients smoke marijuana, care needs to be taken to ensure there is no contamination with aspergillus fungus. This can happen, and in AIDS patients that can lead to a life threatening infection.

Heavier smokers of marijuana have an increased respiratory disease risk with things such as bronchitis. This is different than modulation of the immune system and no research so far has show a decreased immune system in humans as a result of marijuana smoking.

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