Hepatitis is a series of viruses that primarily attack the liver. These include, hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G.In the United States, viral hepatitis is most commonly caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These 3 viruses can all result in acute diseases with symptoms of nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, malaise, and jaundice.
Chronic hepatitis may simmer for 20 years or more before causing significant symptoms related to advanced liver damage such as cirrhosis (scarring and liver failure), liver cancer, or death. Viral hepatitis, accounts for more than 50% of cases of acute hepatitis in the United States.American liver foundation estimates that one in every 10 people in North America is afflicted with a liver, biliary or gallbladder disease.This makes it a worldwide health problem in humans for which pharmacological treatments currently available are not adequate enough. With the letters representing the different hepatitis viruses going up, the need to venture into more research on ways to curb the illness has grown cannabis being one of the possible solutions.
Cannabidiol suppresses ConA-induced hepatitis
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major non-psychoactive cannabinoid component of marijuana (Cannabis sativa). CBD has been shown to have potent immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties and is currently approved for clinical use in some countries for the treatment of pain in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. A research was conducted where rats where used to experiment the effect ofCannabidiol on suppressing the damage on the liver caused by the hepatitis virus.
Natural cannabinoids such as Delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) effectively modulate immune cell function and have shown therapeutic potential in treating inflammatory diseases. According to the research results, THC treatment resulted into significant suppression of crucial inflammatory cytokines in ConA-hepetitis. THC treatment in ConA-injected mice led to significant increase in the absolute number of Fox3 (+) T regulatory cells in the liver.
Cannabis’ role in improving Treatment Response in Hepatitis C Patients
Auto immune hepatitis is generally treated with medications that suppress the immune system, such as prednisone and azathioprine, although these treatments are not universally effective and long term side effects exist.
Interferon-based therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often limited by side effects including flu-like symptoms, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle and joint pain, and depression, which can lead to poor adherence, dose reduction, or treatment discontinuation. However, research has shown that Medicinal cannabis may relieve such side effects and help patients stay on treatment.
Several studies – as well as ample anecdotal evidence – have demonstrated that medical marijuana can reduce nausea, increase appetite, and improve wasting in people with hepatitis.
Diana Sylvestre, MD, of the University of California at San Francisco and colleagues conducted a study to define the impact of cannabis use during HCV treatment. The prospective observational study included 71 patients at OASIS (Organization to Achieve Solutions in Substance Abuse), a community-based clinic providing medical and psychiatric treatment to substance users in Oakland, California. Cannabis users were significantly more likely than non-users to remain on therapy for at least 80% of the projected treatment duration (95% vs 67%; P = 0.01).The average duration of HCV treatment was 38 weeks for cannabis users, compared to 33 weeks for non-users. In other words, Cannabis use offers symptomatic and virological benefit to some patients undergoing HCV treatment by helping them maintain adherence to the challenging medication regimen.
Unfortunately, because cannabis is strictly controlled in the U.S. and the federal government considers the drug illegal which makes it difficult to conduct randomized, controlled trials.
Overall, cannabis use may thus even offer dual benefits, in facilitating adherence to both methadone maintenance therapy and HCV treatment in the HCV-infected drug user, and thus contribute to public health benefits related to both these interventions. Just like cannabis has been legalized for the treatment of some particular diseases like cancer and HIV, hepatitis should be added on the list. This will enable more research on how the drug can be used to alleviate or better cure the virus that’s ruthlessly killing Americans.