The Combined Effects of Cannabis, Methamphetamine, and HIV on Neurocognition


Objective:

Methamphetamine and cannabis are two widely used substances among people living with HIV (PLWH). Whereas methamphetamine use has been found to worsen HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment, the effects of combined cannabis and methamphetamine use disorder on neurocognition in PLWH are not understood. In the present study, we aimed to determine the influence of these substance use disorders on neurocognition in PLWH and to explore if methamphetamine-cannabis effects interacted with HIV status.


Method and participants:

After completing a comprehensive neurobehavioral assessment, PLWH (n = 472) were stratified by lifetime methamphetamine (M-/M+) and cannabis (C-/C+) DSM-IV abuse/dependence disorder into four groups: M-C- (n = 187), M-C+ (n = 68), M+C-, (n = 82), and M+C+ (n = 135). Group differences in global and domain neurocognitive performances and impairment were examined using multiple linear and logistic regression, respectively, while holding constant other covariates that were associated with study groups and/or cognition. Data from participants without HIV (n = 423) were added, and mixed-effect models were used to examine possible interactions between HIV and substance use disorders on neurocognition.


Results:

Compared with M+C+, M+C- performed worse on measures of executive functions, learning, memory, and working memory and were more likely to be classified as impaired in those domains. M-C- performed better than M+C+ on measures of learning and memory but worse than M-C+ on measures of executive functions, learning, memory, and working memory. Detectable plasma HIV RNA and nadir CD4 < 200 were associated with lower overall neurocognitive performance, and these effects were greater for M+C+ compared with M-C-.


Conclusions:

In PLWH, lifetime methamphetamine use disorder and both current and legacy markers of HIV disease severity are associated with worse neurocognitive outcomes. There was no evidence of an HIV × M+ interaction across groups, but neurocognition was most impacted by HIV among those with polysubstance use disorder (M+C+). Better performance by C+ groups is consistent with findings from preclinical studies that cannabis use may protect against methamphetamine’s deleterious effects.


Keywords:

HIV; cannabis; cognition; methamphetamine; polysubstance use; substance use disorder.

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