Studies on Medical Marijuana and Illness, Part 2: HIV/AIDS, MS, and ALS

This is the second portion of our four-part series covering medical studies on the use of Cannabis to treat illness.  This part of the series will focus on how medical marijuana can help patients living with severe and chronic nausea caused by HIV/AIDS and chemotherapy treatments for cancer.  This part of the series will also cover how Cannabis can manage the symptoms of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and ALS, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

For more information about the medical use of Cannabis, please refer to the other sections of this guide.  You may be interested in reading about:

If you have any questions about the health benefits of medical marijuana or whether you qualify for medical marijuana in Massachusetts, call Inhale MD at (617) 477-8886 to set up a confidential consultation with Dr. Tishler.  Your information will be kept private.

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Cannabis Reduces Nausea in HIV and Cancer Patients

  • Study – “Dronabinol and Marijuana in HIV-Positive Marijuana Smokers: Caloric Intake, Mood, and Sleep”
  • Publication Date – August, 2007
  • Findings – “As compared with placebo, marijuana and dronabinol dose dependently increased daily caloric intake and body weight in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. All Cannabinoid conditions produced significant intoxication, except for low-dose dronabinol (5 mg); the intoxication was rated positively (e.g. “good drug effect”) with little evidence of discomfort and no impairment of cognitive performance… Only marijuana (3.9% THC) improved ratings of sleep.”
  • Study – “Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents”
  • Publication Date – October, 2003
  • Findings – “Cannabinoids – the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives – exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite…  These compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumour cells in culture and animal models by modulating key cell-signalling pathways.  Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies.”
  • Study – “Preliminary Efficacy and Safety of an Oromucosal Standardized Cannabis Extract in Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting”
  • Publication Date – November, 2010
  • Findings – “Compared with placebo, CBM [Cannabis-Based Medicine] added to standard antiemetic [anti-vomiting] therapy was well tolerated and provided better protection against delayed CINV [Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting].”

Treating the Effects of MS and ALS with Medical Marijuana

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects an estimated 400,000 people across the United States.  MS causes damage to myelin, the substance which insulates nerve cells, leading to effects including muscle tremors, muscle spasms, difficulty speaking, and eventual paralysis.

  • Study – “Randomized Controlled Trial of Cannabis-Based Medicine in Spasticity Caused by Multiple Sclerosis”
  • Publication Date – March, 2007
  • Findings – “A total of 189 subjects with definite MS and spasticity were randomized to receive daily doses of active [THC] preparation… or placebo… in a double-blind study over six weeks. The primary efficacy analysis… showed the active [THC] preparation to be significantly superior…  We conclude that this CBM [Cannabis-Based Medicine] may represent a useful new agent for treatment of the symptomatic relief of spasticity in MS.”
  • Study – “Prospects for New Cannabis-Based Prescription Medicines”
  • Publication Date – 2001
  • Findings – “Some patients with multiple sclerosis who smoke Cannabis report relief of spasm and pain after the second or third puff of a Cannabis cigarette.  This implies very rapid transit to, and absorption into the central nervous system.  The time involved is seconds rather than minutes.”

The popularity of physicist Stephen Hawking has helped to increase public awareness about ALS, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  ALS affects about 20,000 Americans each year, causing impaired mobility which eventually progresses into paralysis.  ALS is a fatal condition, though the ALS Association reports the disease stops progressing or even reverses in a small number of people.

  • Study – “Medical Marijuana Utilization and Perceived Therapeutic Value in Patients with ALS”
  • Publication Date – April, 2014
  • Findings – “The survey was given to 127 [ALS] patients and 102 were completed (93% response rate).  In total, 21% reported current or prior use of medical marijuana to treat their ALS symptoms.  Of that 21%, large majorities considered it very effective in providing appetite stimulation (75%), aiding sleep (65%), relieving anxiety (80%), relieving depression (70%), and providing muscle relaxation (60%).”
  • Study – “Cannabis and ALS: Hypothetical and Practical Applications, and a Call for Clinical Trials”
  • Publication Date – August, 2010
  • Findings – “[Cannabis] has properties applicable to symptom management of ALS, including analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction…  Based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that Cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.”

If you’re living with any of the medical conditions described in this article, or other conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, hepatitis C, chronic insomnia, or rheumatoid arthritis, medical Cannabis may be able to help provide additional relief in conjunction with traditional treatment.  To talk about whether medical marijuana could be right for your condition, call Dr. Tishler at (617) 477-8886.

MA specifically qualified conditions:

And other debilitating conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician, which may include:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression