Many HIV – AIDS patients experience the involuntary loss of body weight because of diarrhea, fever, mouth or throat infections, ulcers, or adverse effects of medications. Cannabis can be used as an appetite stimulant and to combat nausea for the treatment of AIDS-related weight loss.
Smoking marihuana effectively relieves chronic HIV-associated nerve pain, including aching, painful numbness, and burning, according to a study published in the February 13, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
For the study, 50 people with HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, the most common HIV nerve disorder, were admitted to a California hospital and randomly assigned to smoke either marihuana or identical placebo cigarettes three times a day for five days.
The study found people who smoked marihuana reduced their daily nerve pain by 34 percent compared to 17 percent in the placebo group.
“Smoking marihuana was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic nerve pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy,” said study author Donald Abrams, MD, with San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, California. “Our findings show the amount of relief from smoking marihuana is comparable to relief provided by oral drugs currently used for chronic nerve pain.”
Abrams says while some HIV patients with chronic nerve pain are able to take anticonvulsant drugs, such as lamotrigine and gabapentin, to ease pain, some patients don’t respond well to these drugs. He says that’s why there’s heightened interest in evaluating marihuana as a treatment for chronic nerve pain.
The study also found the first marihuana cigarette reduced chronic pain by an average of 72 percent versus 15 percent with placebo. And more than half of the people who smoked marihuana reported more than a 30-percent reduction in pain compared to 24 percent in the placebo group.