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The modern medical cannabis movement leaped into the national stage from its beginnings as patients’ rights issues unfolded during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Medical cannabis was found to help the wasting syndrome that made early AIDS patients lose dangerous amounts of weight. Cannabis also relieved nausea and appetite suppression side effects of AZT (azidothymidine), the first retroviral treatment for AIDS. The government tried to ignore or suppress this medicinal use of cannabis, but to no avail, at which point AIDS activists took up the cause.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) caused the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) epidemic that began in the United States in 1981. Since then, around 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV, while 600,000 of those infected have died of AIDS-related illnesses. Today over one million Americans live with HIV/AIDS, and it is believed that as many as 18 percent of people living with HIV remain undiagnosed. Approximately 55,000 people will contract AIDS each year, and that number has remained steady for almost a decade.

For treatment of AIDS wasting syndrome, cannabis is effective orally and when vaporized. One of the additional side effects of AIDS is neuropathic pain.

A study in 2207 by Dr. Donald Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital conducted a study that concluded that inhaled cannabis was as effective as oral cannabis for neuropathic pain. No risk of using cannabinoids in treating HIV/AIDS patients has been discovered, although the government has searched desperately for one.

Molecules to target HIV/AIDS

Nausea and appetite stimulation are typically addressed with ultra-high THC strains of cannabis. Neuropathy responds to high CBD chemotypes, which can be alternated with high THC varieties to seek a wide range of effects. Regarding terpenes, as usual, myrcene is indicated for its ability to synergize and to encourage sleep, limonene for its mood-enhancing properties, and linalool may be beneficial for its calming effect.

Dosing for HIV/AIDS

Appetite stimulation tends to occur at the lower end of the cannabis dosage scale, typically around 5 milligrams of THC. The recommended frequency is once before lunch and once before dinner. Many patients find the sweet spot dose around 12.5 milligrams per day. Some patients find the need to increase the dose to 20 milligrams of THC to stimulate their appetite, especially if accompanied by nausea from prescription drug side effects. However, in studies with oral THC capsules (Marinol), only half the patients could tolerate a 20 milligram per day regimen before side effects forced them to scale back on their dose. Most patients will settle into a routine of approximately 10 to 12.5 milligrams twice daily. Cannabis Psychoactivity typically declines when dose is maintained, so cannabis-naive patients will likely find that side effects diminish within a few days.

Methods of ingestion

The oral use of cannabis by HIV/AIDS patients goes back to the early 1980s. Cannabis was infused into sweets such as brownies, cookies, and candy in hopes of appealing to those with no appetite. Cannabis-infused lollipops can be quite effective in patients having difficulty with solid food with the added benefit of more rabid absorption of cannabinoids through the tissues of the mouth. Oral cannabis is quite effective for stimulating appetite, increasing rest and sleep quality, and long-lasting analgesia in HIV/AIDS patients.

Patients report that vaporized cannabis is particularly effective in treating the neuropathic pain associated with HIV/AIDS and its pharmacological treatments.