Small scale surveys of users of medical marijuana in the United States show that most users are patients, especially older patients, trying to find relief from AIDS symptoms.
People are indeed looking to ease symptoms of AIDS. This is evident in three cannabis buyers’ club (organizations that administer the drug to patients) from California visited by the team from IOM. The report shows that over 60 percent of the members of the clubs asked for the drug for the treatment of AIDS. Since HIV has excessively infected the population of a generation that has nurtured a curiosity with marijuana, it is speculated that AIDS patients are more inclined to be willing to utilize marijuana as medicine. On the other hand, patients with cancer who are relatively older and less likely to have attempted using marijuana are really less disposed to seeking the drug as a treatment option.
This means that the number of patients who seek out medical marijuana will probably rise as the generation matures. Another factor that may also add to the fame of medicinal marijuana among AIDS patients is the drug’s alleged ability to pacify multiple devastating symptoms. Patients who are HIV-positive have asserted that marijuana soothed their stomach immediately after taking the drug, stirred their appetite, eased their pain, and enhanced their mood.
HIV not only affects the immune system, it also brings destruction throughout the human body. Besides giving a foothold for opportunistic cancer and infection, the virus also prompts a potentially fatal wasting syndrome, dementia, and painful nerve damage. Further, patients also suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Patients who have tried marijuana say that the drug relieves all of these conditions.
Patients who have AIDS often must rely on drugs that tend to make their daily life wretched. This was evident in the life of a 41 year-old theatre technician from Virginia who explained to the IOM team of his struggle with the virus. Thirteen years has passed when he first learned that he was HIV-positive, he has taken AZT, ddl, Crixivan, d4T, Viramune, Viracept, Megace, Bactrim and other drugs in the hope to survive; at the same time however, these drugs made him even more sick, causing him nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and vomiting. A doctor finally recommended an effective and simple method to cope with the many of his medical symptoms. The new remedy kept him from gradually being starved to death, helping him reconnect with the human race as a productive and responsible citizen. This remedy was none other than medical marijuana.
As with the experience of this man, there already seems to have been an increasing number of patients with AIDS who use marijuana to counter the side effects of approved medicines and to cure disease symptoms. Those who receive extremely effective antiviral drugs known as protease inhibitors oftentimes experience vomiting and nausea which is identical to that being experienced by patients with cancer in chemotherapy.
The effectiveness of marijuana and cannabinoids to reduce vomiting and nausea caused by AIDS remain to be evaluated in the clinic. This warrants that further studies should be done determine the potential of medical marijuana in helping patients overcome medical symptoms brought by AIDS.