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Cachexia and Cannabis

Treating Cachexia with Cannabis

Cachexia: What it is and How Medical Marijuana Can Help

Cachexia, also referred to as Wasting Syndrome, is a condition that occurs during the last stages of diseases such as AIDS, cancer and many other life-threatening diseases. At the point cachexia is diagnosed, the body deteriorates to a stage close to death. This disease should not be confused with patients actually trying to lose weight, because Wasting Syndrome occurs with patients who are not trying to do so and can no longer maintain muscle mass. A major symptom of cachexia is weight loss of 10 percent or more of an individual’s body mass. The body is most affected by the loss of lean muscle, since losing fat quickly is not as detrimental to the body as muscle loss. Even with the intake of calories, patients continue to lose this necessary muscle mass. After the abrupt weight loss of greater than 10 percent, the disease is on its way to the terminal stage. Secondary symptoms of this disease include: diarrhea and vomiting of 30 days or more, increasing weakness over a 30 day period, prolonged fever for several days, and a loss of appetite or anorexia.

Medical marijuana, or cannabis, has been known to help in cases of cachexia. A study on a group of mice showed that marijuana regulates appetite, pain, mood and memory. It also increases an individual’s ability to smell, increases appetite and the desire to eat. Medical marijuana can also positively affects the nausea and vomiting caused by cachexia. Its anti-nausea effect gives patients the ability to not only ingest foods and keep the foods down, but it also helps patients to absorb nutrients, take medicine, continue treatment, and maintain healthy hydration levels.

Medical marijuana can be administered in several ways. Studies that exist on the administering of marijuana or cannabis tend to vary based on the individual. Although, some studies have shown that smoking increases a patient’s ability to ingest food over other methods including oral and sub-lingual administration. As with many treatments, an individual’s original diagnosis (cancer, AIDS, etc.) can also effect the way cannabis should be administered. The side effects of the administration of the medical marijuana must also be taken into consideration, and how these will impact the patient’s quality of life.

In the medical community, many prefer marijuana that contains CBD over THC. While THC is best known for its psychoactive effect, CBD is the opposite, meaning you cannot receive a high from it. Its known as non-psychoactive, and it’s easier for the medical community to accept the drug for ailments without patients receiving that side effect. While many studies have been done on marijuana and its effects on treating cachexia, there is still a need for more.

Many states, including Illinois, persecute for the distribution or possession of marijuana for personal or medical reasons. However, Illinois is currently working on decriminalization of cannabis in cases of less than one ounce. Illinois continues to work on its medical cannabis pilot program, which registers individuals in the state and allows them to use medical marijuana.

For more information on cachexia visit Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Website.

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