Douglas Bruce, Alida M Bouris, Shannon Bowers, Olivia Blocker, Soo Young Lee, Mary F Glidden, John A Schneider, Daniel H Reirden

Published in Addiction Research & Theory


June 2020


Cannabis plays a role in symptoms management in HIV, especially the alleviation of pain and nausea and stimulation of appetite, and prevalence of cannabis use in HIV-positive populations exceeds that of the general U.S. population. Previous research has described an “overlap” between medical and recreational cannabis use among persons living with HIV. To understand better the motives associated cannabis use among young men who have sex with men living with HIV (HIV+ YMSM), we conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 HIV+YMSM in Denver and Chicago. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded by a diverse team of analysts. In addition to findings that mapped onto previously identified medical motives and recreational motives, we identified several themes that straddled medical and recreational use in a domain we describe as therapeutic. Themes identified in this therapeutic domain of cannabis use include (a) enhanced introspection among individuals that promotes psychological adjustment to an HIV diagnosis, improved medical management, and future orientation; (b) reflection processes that mitigate interpersonal conflict and improve interpersonal communication; and (c) a social-therapeutic phenomena of cannabis use among young persons with living HIV that is characterized by both enhanced introspection and improved interpersonal communication. Our findings suggest a spectrum of cannabis use among HIV+ YMSM that may be characterized not only by an overlap between medical and recreational use, but also by a distinct therapeutic domain that incorporates stress alleviation and cognitive expansion processes to improve focus on HIV management and self-care.

Abstract >>

DOI: 10.1080/16066359.2019.1629427


Bruce, D., Bouris, A. M., Bowers, S., Blocker, O., Lee, S. Y., Glidden, M. F., … & Reirden, D. H. (2020). Medical, therapeutic, and recreational use of cannabis among young men who have sex with men living with HIV. Addiction research & theory, 28(3), 250-259.