As a scientist working to improve the health of people living with HIV/AIDS who use illicit drugs, I’m reminded every day of the impacts of our government’s policies on drugs. What’s more, I have seen how misinformation about drugs can lead to ineffective and even harmful drug policies.
My own work involves researching the potential impact of cannabis among people living with HIV/AIDS. Patients have told us for decades that marijuana helps them deal with the side effects of their medications. But now, in a preliminary study, we have found evidence to suggest that people who use cannabis are more likely to have slower HIV disease progression — meaning that they can live longer and healthier lives. That finding is likely due to cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties, which slows the replication of cells carrying the virus in a person’s body. It’s a surprising outcome, but one that helps us better understand a possible role for cannabis in viral infections. But in the current political climate, I’m continually coming up against claims by our political leaders that expanding adult access to legal, regulated cannabis would be an unmitigated disaster. Statements like these make it harder for me to do my job as a scientist.
In Canada, cannabis is widely available and levels of use appear to be surprisingly static. In 2012, 41 per cent of Canadians reported ever using cannabis, while 43 per cent reported using it in 2002. Which means that many Canadians have firsthand experience with the drug, and many others have an opinion on it. What is troubling, though, is that while the scientific evidence on cannabis is growing rapidly, non-scientific claims about the impact of cannabis on the body are continually repeated in headlines, online, and by policymakers — to the point that they begin to sound true.
– Read the entire article at The Huffington Post.