Cannabis For Cachexia
Cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome, is a serious side effect of many diseases that is characterized primarily by extreme weight loss. In patients with cachexia, gaining body weight, or even slowing the rate of weight loss, is incredibly difficult. We’ll explore the disease, usual treatment methods, and how cannabis interacts with its sufferers.
What is Cachexia?
The syndrome comes with weight loss, muscle loss, fatigue, weakness, and appetite loss. The patient has cachexia when reversing this course of weight loss becomes virtually irreversible without treating the underlying cause.
The causes of cachexia are serious illnesses. These include:
- Celiac disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Congestive heart failure
- Familial amyloid polyneuropathy
- Mercury poisoning
- Hormone deficiency
Of these, wasting syndrome most often presents in the first two cases: end-stage cancer patients (usually referred to as cancer cachexia), and HIV/AIDS patients. When the syndrome is introduced, the risk of death is increased dramatically. As a result, treating both the wasting syndrome and the underlying cause are of grave importance.
It has been noted by experts that standard treatment for cachexia is not very effective in and of itself. Because the condition is secondary to another illness, treatment for cachexia usually revolves around treating (or continuing to treat) the underlying cause.
However, as of June, a metabolite called HMB is recommended by professionals in reducing the loss of muscle mass in patients with the disorder. Additionally, physicians recommend a high protein diet for sufferers. Beyond that, doctors use appetite stimulants to encourage patients to eat more to increase body weight.
Cannabis for Cachexia
In the Netherlands, physicians have already caught on to the fact that marijuana helps with the disease. A study shows that the Dutch doctors, of various specialties, prescribe the use of medicinal cannabis for an array of ailments. One of these is anorexia and cachexia associated with cancer. The study also notes that smoked marijuana was perceived as being more effective than oral administration. Regardless, the medication was used with the aim of stimulating appetite and increasing body weight.
Another study notes that dronabinol, a cannabis-based medicine, and cannabis cigarettes have shown numerous benefits in the treatment of wasting syndrome as a result of HIV. They note that cannabis was significantly superior to placebo. Over the course of the study, those patients taking the medication did not lose any weight; the placebo group, on the other hand, did. They add that cannabinoids, the active chemical compounds in cannabis, were effective in treating both a lack of appetite and weight loss in wasting syndrome sufferers.
In a similar study, researchers looked at ailments for which marijuana may be useful as a treatment. On the subject of cachexia, they state that cannabis may be helpful in stimulating appetite and increasing body weight. The study also says that dronabinol has been shown to increase appetite and weight gain in AIDS patients who suffer from cachexia. Weight loss is the primary indicator and danger in those who have the wasting syndrome, so the effectiveness of cannabis to counteract that effect is a huge benefit.
Cachexia is a complex disorder that in all likelihood will never be adequately treated by marijuana alone. However, the plant and its extracts seem to have cemented their place among those medications which are beneficial to sufferers of the disease. By increasing appetite and, more importantly, body weight, cannabis can improve the quality of life of patients and slow or halt the deterioration of the ailment.