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Cannabis as an Adjunctive Treatment for AIDS Related Illness.

By Tod Mikuriya, M.D.

Ken D. is in a protracted war. For the last nine years this thirty eight year old married mainframe computer programmer with a degree in accounting has fought the human immunodefficiency virus in his body one skirmish, one battle at a time. He is a long term survivor, beating the odds. A wiry intelligent man with a neatly trimmed beard to hide the lesions of Kaposi's Sarcoma, KS, a form of cancer with many small colonies growing slowly in his skin and mouth with itching and discolored patches. His beard also protects from irritating the inflammation of the skin erupting from the side effects of medications.

Ken also holds a fungal pneumonia at bay. Pneumocystis Carinii, a fungus that is found most everywhere, including normal healthy lungs without causing symptoms, hecomes invasive and toxic when the immune system is weakened. This is one of many opportunistic infectious diseases taking advantage of a weakened immune system.

He wishes he could work but the terms of his disability status would cost him his benefits that see him through his periods of immobilization. The chemotherapies are specific poisons to target specific enzyme systems of the cancer cells or the fungus but are debilitating to the body. A major symptom is loss of appetite. Anorexia is a major threat to the body when fighting these invaders. In order to summon the strength to stimulate the immune system to resist, there must be nourishment. Otherwise, the body must consume itself to support the immune system. Ths loss of appetite, and thus weight, represents a major threat to survival. The weakness from inadequate nutrition leads to immobilization, stasis, and other complications.

Many of the therapeutic agents cause anorexia as a side effect, further suppressing an already poor appetite.

Ken had used cannabis 20 years but only occasionally in social situations. Since then, he has come to rely on using it daily to maintain his appetite while taking the various chemotherapeutic drugs. Not one to run from a fight, he has been a "guinea pig" in many therapeutic research trials that have had varying success in beating back the cancer or the fungal infections.

Despite the sensitivity of his lungs from the PCP infection that caused him to be hospitalized three years ago for four days, he prefers to smoke cannabis.

Two or three puffs of high grade Northern California sinsemilla twice or three times a day is sufficient to maintain his appetite and provide the antidote to the side effects of the antibiotic and other chemotherapeutic agents.


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