Medical Marijuana and Cachexia

medical marijuana and cachexiaYou won’t have to research medical conditions treatable with medical marijuana for very long before you come across the term cachexia; if you’re not sure what this term means, you’re not alone so here we’ll explain exactly what cachexia is and how cannabis can help to alleviate it.

What is Cachexia?

This definition from the National Cancer Institute:

cachexia (ka-KEK-see-a)

Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness that may occur in patients with cancer, AIDS, or other chronic diseases.

Cachexia invariably occurs with anorexia:

anorexia (a-nuh-REK-see-uh)

An abnormal loss of the appetite for food. Anorexia can be caused by cancer, AIDS, a mental disorder (i.e., anorexia nervosa), or other diseases.

What Causes Cachexia?

Although it depends very much on what type of cancer a patient has, it’s estimated that 50% to 80% of all cancer patients will develop cachexia, usually during the final stages of pancreatic, lung, and prostate cancers. The condition appears to result from the immune system’s response to the tumor.

Another major cause of cachexia is HIV/AIDS infection.

Cachexia Treatments

In most cases the standard for advanced cachexia is intravenous feeding, together with administration of an appetite stimulant drug – Megace. The problem with Megace is that the weight gain it stimulates is in the form of fat; the weight loss through the cachexia is lean tissue – muscles, heart tissue and the like.

Marijuana and Cachexia

Most people know about the way weed stimulates the appetite – the infamous munchies. The munchies is caused by the action of THC on the body and there have been a number of studies confirming that patients who use medical marijuana experience a reduction in rate of weight loss together with an increase in appetite. Sadly, research has also failed to show any advantage of taking THC and Megace in combination – they do not augment each other’s effects.

Chemotherapy Induced nausea and Marijuana

It has been shown in various studies that, when used in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, THC is more quickly absorbed from marijuana smoke than from any oral preparation. The only problem appears to be one of dose measurement; however, with experience, chemotherapy patients will learn to manage their weed dosage.

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