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Help for Chronic Suffering: Cannabis for HIV/AIDS Patients

Help for Chronic Suffering: Medical Marijuana for HIV/AIDS Patients


If you are a person of a certain age, you remember the 80’s and 90’s when HIV/AIDS came to the forefront of national attention. This disease is caused by a virus, HIV specifically. It’s effect on the body is called AIDS, short for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. In medicine a “syndrome” is a set of presenting (manifesting) symptoms that go together (the word syndrome is Greek for a rushing together). In this article you’re going to know more about medical marijuana and how to treat this desease with it.


So, in laypersons terms, HIV is the “bug” you get, and the way it makes you feel and function is AIDS.


How many people are suffering? According to the website, there are 1.2 million people in the United States who have this serious disease with an estimated 36,400 new cases occurring in 2018 alone.


While much progress has been made (the highest death rates were recorded in the mid-1980’s) unfortunately for the public health the reduction of new cases seems to be slowing. Most disturbing is the fact that 1 in 7 people who have HIV don’t even know it – that’s 14% who are carrying the disease, and perhaps spreading it to others, unaware that they have it themselves.


HIV/AIDS Treatments: When Good News is Also Bad News


In the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, it was truly a crisis – especially in the gay community and among certain drug users. The mortality rate was incredibly high and it was a very dark time for these groups. In time, the general population learned that they could also contract this terrible condition through contaminated blood supplies. 


Thankfully, the medical research community kicked into high gear, and as the years went on, a vast constellation of drugs was developed: AZT, ddI, d4T, Crixivan, Viracept, Viramune, Bactrim, Megace, and others are now commonly prescribed for HIV/AIDS sufferers.


This has been a true godsend and has greatly reduced the mortality rate for this scourge. But it has also presented a big problem – the medicines (as well as the HIV/AIDS itself – can make those patients feel sick.


Medicines: HIV/AIDS medicine can produce a host of serious side effects: Nausea is one of the biggest. Stomach upset and diarrhea can also be a problem. And as a result there can be a loss of appetite which can lead the sufferer to become weak and even more vulnerable.


Course of the Disease: The disease itself is also a source of much “add on” suffering, in addition to the risk of death. HIV attacks the immune system, which puts patients at risk of various infections, can bring on lasting nerve damage, even dementia and cancer. 


And because HIV/AIDS is so physically debilitating, those suffering from it can also experience anxiety (not knowing what the future might bring) and depressive episodes when dark days come and hope is in short supply.


Medical Cannabis For HIV/AIDS Symptom Support


Of course, medical Marijuana cannot cure this disease but right now there are many AIDS sufferers who are using it to help control symptoms and side-effects.


According to the influential website WebMD, in one study 565 patients suffering from HIV were given a self-assessment questionnaire. The majority of the participants who said they used marijuana in some form reported that their nerve pain symptoms were significantly reduced.


Another research paper, also cited by WebMD, noted that THC did indeed ease nerve-related pain in patients diagnosed with cancer. The inference – although as yet requiring more research – is that it could also be beneficial for HIV/AIDS patients who need help in managing nerve pain.


Nausea and Vomiting. One of the best examples of this is the way in which Medical Cannabis might help those taking protease inhibitors. This class of drugs are used to fight the virus and are very effective – but like patients taking chemo, protease inhibitors can experience serious bouts of nausea and vomiting. There are drugs available to help quell these symptoms, but some today are also finding relief from either smoking or ingesting Cannabis (via “edibles”).


One example of a medical Cannabis variety that can help to reduce nausea (and the vomiting that it brings on) is Tropicana Cookies Purple. It is well suited to a variety of growing conditions, especially indoors where it can grow in soil, or grow mediums such as coco coir and can be grown hydroponically or aeroponically.


Fighting Weight Loss. Much as with cancer patients, those suffering from HIV/AIDS can also experience significant weight loss. This can be due to the loss of appetite they experience as well as from diarrhea which causes what little food the patient eats to be quickly eliminated from the body, thereby reducing the amount of nutrition that the body can absorb from that food. While there are drugs available, any true pot smoker can relate to having the “munchies” – an increased desire to eat shortly after smoking – and those with HIV/AIDS are often able to boost their own food intake by regularly smoking even smaller amounts of weed.


Pain: Medical Cannabis well-known for its ability to help control pain (especially neuropathy) in some who use it. While more research is currently being done, some researchers have found that the compound THC can be effective in treatment of cancer pain, including neuropathy (nerve pain).


One of the best pain-fighters in the Cannabis world is, of course, 3 Kings OG Kush. If you’ve got to fight chronic pain brought on by HIV/AIDS, this one can give you some relief. It is also used to reduce inflammation, fight stress and depression and the ladies report that some are helped with menstrual cramps and migraines by the regular use of this Cannabis strain.


Medical Marijuana as a Mood-Leveler


One of the greatest challenges for HIV/AIDS sufferers is dealing with the psychological and emotional trauma that this disease inflicts. Being in constant pain, suffering from nausea, feeling hopeless because one is suffering from a chronic condition that can only be controlled, not cured – all of this can make it really difficult to remain positive in attitude, which is a key component of physical health.


One of the best strains of Cannabis to help induce a feeling of happiness (fighting depression) and relaxation (fighting anxiety) is the Blood Diamond OG. These plants typically flower out at 9-10 weeks and are ideal if you are growing pot in a greenhouse or using a hydroponically-based system.


Depression can also be linked to increasing levels of anxiety, and anxiety and depression can feed off of fuel each other in an ever-descending spiral. Thankfully, Cannabis is smoked precisely because of its ability to affect mood. Some HIV/AIDS sufferers who did not originally smoke pot for its medical benefit but to “get high” soon discovered that it helped them on days when depression and sadness was greatest.


THC- and CBD-Based Medicines


As an additional proof, of sorts, that some using cannabis in oral or smoked form could be providing real relief, consider that there are a whole class of prescription medicines that are derived from THC: nabilone (Cesamet ®)  and dronabinol (Marinol ®) are commonly prescribed for nausea and to stimulate appetite. In the UK, Canada and some European countries a mouth spray called nabiximols (Sativex ®) is used to treat neuropathic pain. Sativex uses a combination of two active chemicals found in pot – CBD and THC.


For many HIV/AIDS sufferers mornings are the most difficult time of the day – especially if you begin your day by taking a ton of medicines that could bring on nausea, vomiting – and who wants to eat when you are feeling that way.


A Cannabis variety that is well-suited to morning use is called Blue Dream. It is ideally suited to growing indoors. It is great for just-starting-out pot smokers as the taste and smell strongly resembles sweet blueberries. 


Blue Dream has been used to treat those suffering from chronic pain, depression/anxiety, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. If you are an AIDS/HIV sufferer who is battling anxiety, depression and high stress levels this could be a good option for you.

A final medication that could be mentioned is a liquid called Epidiolex ®. It is currently being used on some forms of epilepsy and other conditions. It too is a derivative of CBD that looks very promising.


Although these are derived pharmaceuticals and so are different from Cannabis that is smoked or ingested directly by eating, they are still indicators that there is “something” there that even pot smokers can find helpful in enhancing their quality of life. 


While some who grow pot have lots of room to do so (either indoors or outdoors) some don’t have too much room, or they need to keep the existence of their “medicine” away from prying eyes of neighbors. If you are looking for a smaller plant that can be grown more discreetly, you might want to investigate the variety known as Auto Mandarine


Smaller does not mean that you will have to settle for smaller harvests as this plant will yield a medium to high yield and a flowering time of 9-11 weeks. Indoors they will grow from 50-110 cm in height and yield anywhere from 45-170 grams of useable harvested pot per plant. Some growers will even be able to grow and harvest 2 crops each season. This strain is great for stress, pain and anxiety relief – a true triple-threat!