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Medical Marijuana and Viral Hepatitis

What Is Viral Hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis kills hundreds of thousands and possibly even more than one million people each year. It is a dangerous condition that can require long-term treatment. Recent research into medical marijuana is showing that it can improve quality of life in sufferers and aid existing treatments that prevent deadly progression of the condition. Viral hepatitis can hide well, though one of the most common symptoms is jaundice. Treatment is very important once liver inflammation reaches that stage. 

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by several viruses. Five viruses specifically cause hepatitis. These are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. However, the hepatitis viruses are not the only viruses that can cause this condition. There are other viruses that can cause hepatitis that are not "hepatitis" viruses. The various types of viral hepatitis can cause different symptoms. Furthermore, they can co-occur creating numerous complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 4.4 million people in the United States have chronic viral hepatitis and most of them do not know it. Roughly 80,000 people contract it each year. 

Treatment of any hepatitis infection will depend on the virus or viruses causing the symptoms. Some hepatitis viruses, such as hepatitis A, will make sufferers sick but do not result in chronic infections and symptoms. Other hepatitis viruses, such as hepatitis B, are potentially deadly and can require aggressive treatment. Medical marijuana can be used to treat symptoms in some viruses and it can be used to relieve side effects of antiviral treatment used to treat some of the hepatitis causing viruses.

Medical Marijuana and Viral Hepatitis

Medical Marijuana and Viral Hepatitis Research 

Individuals with viral hepatitis may develop depression and feel generally unwell. In many instances, patients who imbibe will continue to use alcohol. It is very important that individuals with hepatitis or liver disease of any sort do not ingest alcohol at all. Pre-clinical trials have shown that medical marijuana can alleviate addiction. Therefore, it can be a useful tool in treating alcohol users with hepatitis. It may also prevent depression in sufferers undergoing treatment for viral hepatitis. 

An established benefit of medical marijuana use over other medications is its level of toxicity. Some medications can further harm an already damaged liver. Marijuana research and anecdotal evidence going back thousands of years shows that marijuana has no lethal dosage. It cannot harm the body in the same way other medications can in users with viral hepatitis. In this way, it is the ideal medication for aiding in treatment and treating the symptoms of chronic pain and chronic illness associated with some forms of hepatitis. 

There is some research indicating that medical marijuana can relieve inflammation in Chron's disease and skin conditions. Research regarding medical marijuana, inflammation and hepatitis is sorely lacking. However, the potential is clearly there, which indicates the need for further research. If it can reduce liver inflammation as well as assist in treatment, it can be a very powerful drug in the fight against viral hepatitis. 

Medical Marijuana to Alleviate Hepatitis Treatment Side Effects 

As with chemotherapy, antiviral therapy is extremely difficult for the recipient. According to doctors, many patients with viral hepatitis discontinue treatment because it is painful and nauseating. Furthermore, it takes months to complete the treatment. Also as with chemotherapy, medical marijuana can help relieve the pain and nausea associated with antiviral therapy. This not only makes patients' lives more comfortable during treatment but it also makes patients more likely to finish treatment. This can save the lives of individuals who do not tolerate the treatment well enough to continue it without medical marijuana. 

A study conducted by Dr. Diana L. Sylvestre of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco showed that patients on cannabis were significantly more likely to stick with treatment for more than 80% of the time needed to complete it. Ninety-five percent of those on cannabis stuck with it compared to only 67 percent of those who did not take medical marijuana with their treatment. Furthermore, 36 percent more of the patients on medical marijuana were virus-free six months after treatment than those who did not take medical marijuana. This study shows that medical marijuana is likely as viable for antiviral treatment as it is for chemotherapy. It also showed just how much of a problem adherence to treatment is, given that one-fourth of the study participants dropped out of treatment. Only one of them was a medical marijuana patient.

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