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In the mid-1980s people with AIDS discovered that cannabinoids relieved the nausea caused by their illness or by the medications taken to combat it. In addition, cannabinoids often improved their appetite and enabled them to stop losing or even to gain weight. Like most medical users of cannabinoids, AIDS patients have found that smoked cannabinoids has specifically been advocated than Marinol (dronabinol), a synthetic THC developed by a small pharmaceutical company, Unimed, with considerable financial support from the government. The federal authorities had come to believe that its availability would quell demands of herbal marijuana as a medicine.
The prevalence of pain in patients living with HIV/AIDS has been estimated at 60%. Pain interferes with daily living and is a marker for reduced survival. While pain associated with HIV/AIDS is well documented, it is often underrecognized and undertreated in clinical practice.
Painful conditions associated with HIV infection include pain due to headache, herpes simplex, peripheral neuropathy, back pain, herpes zoster, throat pain, and arthralgia. In addition, clinical experience suggests an increasing incidence of pain due to malignancies and associated treatments.
A study done by Dr. Donald Abrams found that smoked cannabis was effective at reducing painful HIV-associated neuropathy, as well as effective at reducing pain from a heat-capsaicin model of peripheral neuropathy.
Nausea is one of the main reasons for cannabis use by persons with HIV/AIDS. The ability of cannabinoid receptor areas to treat nausea has been recognized for a long time; the oldest prescription cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) were approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy.
The effects of THC on appetite and weight were evaluated in 88 patients with AIDS related anorexia and weight loss. THC was associated with increased appetite, improvement in mood, and decreased nausea. The effects of cannabinoids on appetite, have shown that oral THC improves appetite and reverses weight loss. THC also showed a positive effect on sleep.