Cachexia and Medicinal Cannabis

Cachexia is a condition that causes extreme weight loss as a result of changes in how the body breaks down fat and muscle.

Cachexia is also known as a wasting disorder, and usually occurs when a patient is in the late stages of serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or kidney disease. 

Scientists are unsure of what exactly causes cachexia, but some theorise that when in the later stages of some diseases, the body releases chemicals that speed up the metabolism and causes the body to consume calories at an increased volume and speed. As a result, even if the patient is eating normally they can experience significant and severe weight loss as the body burns through fat and begins to consume muscle tissue for energy. 

What are the symptoms of Cachexia?

Cachexia is a mostly physical condition, with symptoms including:

  • Severe weight loss, including loss of fat and muscle mass
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anaemia (low red blood cells)
  • Weakness and fatigue

Factors that increase the risk of developing Cachexia are:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • HIV
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

How can medicinal cannabis help with Cachexia?

Studies have shown that cannabis' stimulation of appetite can significantly improve quality of life in patients suffering from Cachexia, specifically by helping maintain body weight, body fat, increasing caloric intake and stabilising mood. Cannabis influences appetite by influencing the endocannabinoid system - a system that helps the body decide when they're hungry or full. 

By stimulating the endocannabinoid system using medicinal cannabis, patients can increase their appetite which enables easier weight maintenance.

Some of the cannabis products that have shown to be beneficial treatments to Cachexia sufferers include:

  • Nabiximols
  • Dronbinol
  • THC:CBD extracts
  • CBD extracts
  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica

They can be consumed as an oil, vape liquid, sprays and wafers.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Cachexia and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.

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