Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its
peak, patients and their loved ones were desperate to find anything to
ameliorate the symptoms of the disease. Wasting is a common symptom of AIDS. When medical marijuana was found to help reduce nausea and vomiting, it became an issue of patients
rights far and wide.
Cannabis and AIDS-Related Wasting
Patients’ life expectancy improved with the advent of antiretrovirals,
such as AZT, but some of the most common side effects of these medications are nausea and
vomiting. These are often severe enough to compromise medication
adherence, and contribute to further wasting. Patients found that marijuana both
reduced nausea and stimulated appetite, increasing the amount of
calories they consumed and preventing excessive weight loss.
In 2007, a study by Columbia
backed up the anecdotal evidence. Researchers found that both orally
administered and smoked cannabis significantly stimulated appetite,
increasing the caloric intake of HIV/AIDS patients.
That same year, researchers at San Francisco General Hospital and the
University of California’s Pain Clinical Research Center found that
cannabis reduced neuropathic
by some 34 percent, and that it was comparable to pharmaceuticals
currently used to treat neuropathy. This finding was validated in a
from the University of California.
Oral Usage May Be Most Effective for Nausea
The nausea and vomiting associated with HIV/AIDS and the medications
used to treat these symptoms are linked to the enteric nervous system,
which controls the gastrointestinal tract. Cannabinoids act on receptors
in the enteric nervous system to ameliorate symptoms. While inhaled
cannabis may be more effective in combating neuropathic pain, oral
dosage appears to be most effective in managing nausea, vomiting, and
loss of appetite.
Oral administration offers a variety of possibilities. Cannabis has
historically been added to sweets, such as candy, brownies and cookies,
in an effort to appeal to those with little or no appetite. However,
even lollipops can be effective for those who experience problems with
Medical marijuana can be extremely beneficial for those living with
HIV/AIDS. Even low doses of THC-heavy cannabis help stimulate appetite
and reduce weight loss.