HIV/AIDS and Medical Marijuana
What is HIV/AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. As the body’s ability to fight infection declines, other harmful diseases, including meningitis, pneumonia, encephalitis, tuberculosis, chronic diarrhea, and cancers, take over.
Advanced HIV leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), characterized by the appearance of additional infections and a low CD4+ T cell count. Death eventually results, either from an infection, or from the wasting syndrome associated with AIDS.
What is the treatment for HIV/AIDS?
There is no cure for HIV infection, but a mixture of antiretroviral medications (ARVs) can prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS. These medications allow people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives, and reduce the risk of HIV transmission. However, ARVs and other medications prescribed to fight infections have debilitating side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and loss of appetite, that make life difficult for HIV sufferers.
How does medical marijuana help HIV/AIDS?
In the US, a large proportion of medical marijuana users are people with HIV or AIDS. Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence suggest that medical marijuana provides relief for many of the symptoms of HIV, as well as the side effects of ARV medications. One survey found that patients using medical marijuana are 3.3 times more likely to stay with their medication regime.
Nausea, Vomiting, and Loss of Appetite – For many people, medical marijuana is effective in eliminating nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss caused by HIV medications. Restoring the appetite helps with weight gain and the intake of vital nutrients.
Pain – People with AIDS often suffer from neuropathic pain (a burning sensation of the skin) and hypersensitivity to touch. Medical marijuana has been found to relieve neuropathic pain, as well as other types of pain associated with ARV medications and AIDS-related cancers.
AIDS Wasting Syndrome – AIDS wasting syndrome is defined as the involuntary loss of more than 10% of body weight, accompanied by diarrhea or fever that lasts more than 30 days and is not attributable to another illness. Two physiological processes contribute to wasting: starvation, and cachexia (the loss of lean muscle tissue due to tissue injury). Medical marijuana combats wasting by stimulating appetite.
Depression and Anxiety – Illness and worry about the future often trigger depression and emotional ups and downs in people with HIV. Many who have used medical marijuana for their other symptoms report that their mood improved and they were better able to cope with their symptoms.
Every person responds differently to medical marijuana. Sometimes only a very small dose is required to bring about the desired results. Some people find high-THC marijuana products too strong, and the method of administration also makes a difference. It is important to consult a qualified physician who can monitor your symptoms and your progress. At Green Relief, you will always see the same doctor and receive the same level of care at every visit.
- Marijuana Use and Its Association With Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy Among HIV-Infected Persons With Moderate to Severe Nausea. de Jong, Bouke C. MD; Prentiss, Diane MA, MPH; McFarland, Willi MD, PhD; Machekano, Rhoderick MPH; Israelski, Dennis M. MD. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: 1 January 2005 – Volume 38 – Issue 1 – pp 43-46 Clinical Science
- Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy. Mack A, Joy J., Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.