Cachexia is weight loss, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness and significant appetite loss in a person who is not trying actively to lose weight. The formal definition of cachexia is the loss of body mass that cannot be reversed nutritionally.
Even if the affected patient eats more calories, they will lose lean body mass, indicating a fundamental pathology inducing cachexia. Cachexia is seen in patients with cancer, AIDS, chronic obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure, tuberculosis, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, mercury poisoning (acrodynia) and hormonal deficiency.
How Cannabis Can Help Relieve Symptoms
Loss of appetite and cachexia are frequent symptoms in palliative care patients. However, therapeutic regimens often prove ineffective, and the quality of life of many patients is significantly impaired by these symptoms.
Symptomatic pharmacological treatments target metabolic, neuroendocrinological and catabolic changes. Prokinetic drugs, corticosteroids and gestagenes are used for symptomatic therapy.
Recently, the use of cannabinoids for treatment of appetite loss and cachexia has become a focus of interest. In cancer patients, cannabinoids proved more effective than placebo but less effective than gestagenes. Compared to placebo, higher efficacy of cannabinoids could be demonstrated in patients with AIDS as well as in patients with Morbus Alzheimer’s. However, side effects such as dizziness, tiredness and feeling dazed led to discontinuation of the cannabinoid therapy in some patients.