Doctors of Natural Medicine

Medical Marijuana For Cachexia

Medical marijuana is being touted for its many uses, but one of the most promising is for Cachexia, a condition that affects five million people in the US. Today we will discuss the use of medical marijuana for Cachexia.

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What Causes Cachexia?

Cachexia is a wasting disorder characterized by severe weight loss and reduction of muscle mass and body fat. It typically affects people in the late stages of serious diseases such as:
  • HIV or AIDS
  • COPD
  • Cancer
  • Kidney Disease
  • Congestive Heart Failure
The difference between Cachexia and regular weight loss from diet and exercise is Cachexia is involuntary. The appetite gets suppressed by the afflicting disease for various reasons, and the metabolism also increases which accelerates the further loss of body mass. There are three categories of Cachexia:
  • Precachexia: loss of body weight up to 5% because of illness
  • Cachexia: loss of more than 5% body weight within twelve months due to illness
  • Refractory Cachexia: weight, muscle, and function loss due to cancer, also a failure to respond to treatment
Symptoms of Cachexia include:
  • Loss of energy and appetite
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • High levels on inflammation
  • Anemia
  • Low protein and albumin levels
Additionally, Cachexia often complicates treatment for the afflicting disease or illness making it harder to respond to said treatment, and it causes 25% of cancer deaths. It also makes it harder to tolerate harsher treatments such as chemotherapy. Treatments for Cachexia include human growth hormone, although it is expensive, and megestrol acetate which can have sexual side effects. But as far as how to reverse Cachexia naturally in cancer patients, the solution is removing the tumor burden (number of cancer cells. Experts recommend a multimodal treatment in the Precachexia and Cachexia stages that consists of nutrition, medication, and other non-pharmaceutical strategies

Medical Marijuana For Cachexia

Simply put, the biggest advantages of using medical marijuana for Cachexia come from two of its better-known effects:
  • Stimulation of appetite
  • Relief of nausea
But it can also help with depression associated with Cachexia. This is heavily supported by anecdotal evidence, and there is scientific evidence supporting it as well. Because of this, it is listed as a qualifying condition for use of medical marijuana in many states.  Even back in 1985, when medical marijuana was universally much less accepted, the FDA actually approved a THC derivative called Dronabinol for HIV/AIDS-related wasting. However, because of Dronabinol’s high cost, it was not a practical treatment and insurance companies often won’t pay for it. It is also prescribed to help with nausea associated with chemotherapy. A 2007 study stated patients with HIV/AIDS make up the largest group that use cannabinoids for medical reasons. What the study demonstrated was a significant increase in appetite for patients with HIV when using medical marijuana, as well as the substance being well tolerated.
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What Kind Is Best For Using Medical Marijuana In Cachexia Treatment?

The best method for ingestion of medical marijuana for Cachexia appears to be orally or sublingually (under the tongue). THC dominant strains seem to be most effective at treating it.

Consult Your Doctor

If you suffer from Cachexia or have a condition that can result in Cachexia, it is best to speak with your doctor to determine if medical marijuana is right for you.

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