How Daily Marijuana Use Impacts Your Immune System

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Experts have a few theories. According to microbiology and pathology professor at the University of South Carolina, Prakash Nagarkatti who’s done research on the topic, “the key to this suppression is a unique type of immune cell” called myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSCs (via Science Daily). An increased level of MDSCs is thought to be present in people with cancer, but unlike other immune cells, MDSCs suppress the immune system. “MDSCs seem to be unique and important cells that may be triggered by inappropriate production of certain growth factors by cancer cells or other chemical agents such as cannabinoids, which lead to a suppression of the immune system’s response,” explained Nagarkatti.

Per an older study published in The Journal of Immunology, also authored by Nagarkatti, it was the pain-relieving and main psychoactive compound found in cannabis — tetrahydrocannabinol otherwise known as THC — that suppressed the anti-tumor immune response. Interestingly, a 2023 study published in the journal Nature Communications found that THC was linked with negatively impacting brain immune cells as well, making teenagers more genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. This brings to light the question of whether or not marijuana can increase your risk of developing psychiatric disorders. Back to the topic of immunity, however, there is another side to this coin — cannabis as an autoimmune suppressor for people who might benefit from it.  

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