Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Cachexia often appears as a symptom of disorders like HIV/AIDS and cancer. It causes you to lose a large amount of weight due to depleted muscle and fat. Some patients with cachexia also experience a loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness. You may have a harder time managing your underlying condition because of cachexia’s symptoms.
People often joke about the “munchies” that marijuana can give you, but they could come to the rescue of patients with cachexia. Cannabis’ appetite-stimulating and anti-nausea properties can relive cachexia’s most prominent symptoms.
Lahat et al. observed the effects of medical marijuana on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms. IBD can significantly decrease a patient’s quality of life, so they aimed to find out how cannabis could help. They also wanted to determine how marijuana impacts an IBD patient’s disease activity and body weight.
Thirteen patients with IBD went through three months of medical cannabis treatment. Before treatment, they completed quality of life questionnaires and disease activity indexes. They also had their weight measured before they began to take medical cannabis. After three months of inhaling medical marijuana, the researchers conducted the same tests again.
Marijuana medicine helped the IBD patients across the board. It improved their quality of life and reduced their IBD’s activity. Most importantly, their weight increased by about 2.3 to 6.3 kilogram, and their BMIs rose from around 0.79 to 2.01.
Beal et al. explored dronabinol’s ability to help patients with AIDS gain weight and improve their appetite. Dronabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid used to relieve symptoms like nausea and appetite problems. Specifically, the team wanted to look at improvement in mood, appetite, nausea and weight.
A total of 139 patients who lost at least 2.3 kilogram due to AIDS-related anorexia took part in the six-week study. They received either 2.5milligram of dronabinol twice a day or a placebo. Three days a week, they rated their mood, appetite and nausea levels. The team also conducted evaluations on the subjects every two weeks.
Eighty-eight of the 139 patients — or 63.3% — experienced improvement after taking dronabinol for six weeks. The patients who received dronabinol had steady body weights throughout the study — some members of the dronabinol group even gained weight. About 22% percent of them gained at least 2 kilograms in body weight while taking the drug.
Woolridge et al. studied the ways HIV patients use cannabis to manage their symptoms. Whether it’s due to their disease or the treatment they undergo, many HIV/AIDS patients deal with symptoms like weight loss and reduced appetite. Using cannabis as a supplement to HIV/AIDS treatment could relieve these health issues.
The researchers worked with a total of 523 HIV-positive attendants of an outpatient clinic. The patients completed a questionnaire featuring questions about demographics, degree of disability and use of cannabis for HIV treatment. Subjects who used medical marijuana also finished a part of the survey requesting information on their cannabis use and symptoms.
The patients who used medical cannabis for their HIV symptoms experienced significant improvement of cachexia-related symptoms. Out of the 143 patients who took marijuana medicine, 97% of them reported an improved appetite, 93% reduced nausea and 69% experienced less weight loss. The researchers concluded cannabis helped these patients maintain a healthy weight.
Knowledge about your cachexia and professional medical advice can help you get the most out of your treatment. Check out our resources about cachexia and medical marijuana to learn more about treating your condition with cannabis. For more information or a medical marijuana recommendation, schedule a visit with a cannabis-certified doctor.