Medical marijuana treats patients struggling with cachexia by increasing their appetite and also reducing their feelings of nausea enabling them to keep their food down. Medical cannabis has the ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system in a patients body that is in control of balancing their food intake. Particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a substance found within marijuana has been found be able to persuade the brain that it is hungry, by not only increasing appetite but also gives a patient a positive emotional response to food intake.
On top of its positive physical and emotional bodily responses, medical marijuana has also been linked with an increase in physical activity that can greatly help a person with muscle atrophy a common symptom with cachexia, where a patient experiences muscle weakness and a severe decline in muscle mass. Columbia University did a study in 2007 where they measure the effects of marijuana on patients with HIV. They found that patients rated marijuana positively and had a “good drug effect” with”little evidence of discomfort and no impairment of cognitive performance”. They also found medical marijuana to have the extra bonus of providing the patients with improvements in sleep something that dronabinol, the prescription medication answer to appetite control cannot provide.
Cachexia is characterized by a significant loss of appetite, weakness, and tiredness resulting in loss of weight, particularly in muscle. It is associated with a number of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Aids and more particularly Cancer. About 50 – 85% of patients suffering from late-stage cancer are diagnosed with cachexia before they even begin treatment, which is why cachexia is regarded as one of the biggest loss of life reason in cancer patients. Patients diagnosed with cachexia posses decreased levels of testosterone, high levels of IFG-1, elevated levels of the hormone myostatin, and an increase in the hormone glucocorticoids. These imbalances in the body prevent a patient from gaining or maintaining muscle and a reduction in appetite or the feeling of nausea whenever they attempt to eat. This all leads to muscle loss and an overall drop in body weight.