Cachexia, commonly referred to as wasting syndrome, is a substantial and overall weakening of the body due to continued exhausting illness. This is usually expressed by significant weight loss, which cannot be regained nutritionally, muscle atrophy, fatigue and overall passiveness of the patient. Loss of appetite and digestive disorders such as chronic diarrhea are also present. Wasting syndrome is not considered a separate disease, but rather a secondary condition to a major aliment or group of ailments.
Cachexia is typically seen in people suffering from cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, gadolinium or mercury poisoning, and hormonal deficiency. Some autoimmune disorders are also able to cause the syndrome. Cachexia weakens the patient physically, leaving him or her unable to perform advanced tasks, and treatment of symptoms such as weight loss usually meet poor response.
Weight loss is the primary negative symptom of cachexia. Patients may lose more than 10% of their constitutional body mass, and treatment is typically targeted at reversing the effect. Diets rarely help since the condition is accompanied by loss of appetite and lack of exercise. Steroid pills are usually prescribed such as corticosteroids or drugs that mimic progesterone. Side effects of steroid treatment can be devastating for the patient, but in some cases it’s a ‘win or lose’ situation and sufferers have to take the risk. Medical marijuana may be the safer – and much less expensive – way to treat loss of appetite and help normalize weight. Appetite boost is one of the most well-known effects of cannabis smoking, and since cannabinoids found in marijuana, are also known to speed up metabolism and improve digestion, the patient would deliberately increase his or her caloric intake, without the risk of harmful side effects.
The majority of states where marijuana is legal include wasting syndrome as one of the prerequisite conditions for marijuana treatments. Furthermore, doctors in every state can legally prescribe Marinol, a synthetic cannabis derivative, as appetite stimulant for patients with wasting syndrome.