Does HIV/AIDS Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Georgia?
HIV is a severe immune system virus that affects over 1.2 million Americans, with nearly 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Those who suffer from HIV have a compromised immune system that can become debilitating if left untreated.
Untreated or undiagnosed HIV leads to AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a severe complication that leaves the patient extremely vulnerable to infection.
With reportedly 45%-75% of HIV/AIDS patients using medical marijuana to help alleviate symptoms of the condition, in addition to treating the unpleasant side effects from the invasive pharmaceutical medications that are often prescribed to combat the disorder.
In Georgia, the state has approved AIDS as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana when it is diagnosed as severe or end-stage.
What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes the immune system to function at a degraded rate. Through a process of killing cells and making copies of itself, once HIV is contracted it remains in the body and will progress further if left untreated.
There is currently no cure for HIV, treatment plans typically focus on preventing the progression of the virus and supporting the immune system.
If left untreated or medications do not work, HIV will progress to AIDS, where the immune system will become compromised at a serious degree.
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What is AIDS?
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a complication of HIV that renders the immune system extremely vulnerable to serious attack from otherwise mild sickness like the common cold, flu, or pneumonia.
When these mild illnesses encounter AIDS patients they are called “opportunistic infections”, a term used to denote the easy access the infections have into the permanently compromised immune system.
Because the immune system is in a state of permanent underperformance, not only are patients with AIDS more susceptible to infection, but it’s also more dangerous to contract them, leading to diarrhea, peripheral neuropathy, and wasting syndrome.
Without a healthy immune system, the body does not maintain the amount of required cells to keep you healthy and fight infections. A common cold or pneumonia can be detrimental for someone with a compromised immune system, and as such AIDS is considered a chronic and often terminal illness that can result in premature death.
Is HIV/AIDS a Terminal Condition?
In only two and a half decades, HIV/AIDS has gone from a global pandemic that was considered terminal and bearing a life expectancy of only 49 years, to a manageable chronic condition with the average life expectancy of 70 years as of 2011.
This is in large part due to the development of antiretroviral drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Antiretroviral medications are prescribed to control or suppress the development of HIV/AIDS, and there have been many successes with pharmaceutical drugs used to treat the condition.
Unfortunately, these pharmaceutical drugs are often accompanied by punishing side effects such as intense nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can even sometimes cause internal bleeding or heart disease.
Because of the intensity these antiretroviral medications can have on the body, many HIV/AIDS patients have used medical marijuana to help ease the symptoms of the condition, or the complications of the pharmaceutical drugs.
Can Medical Marijuana Help Treat HIV/AIDS?
Cannabis is commonly used by patients suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In fact, cannabis derivatives or chemical copies of cannabis compounds are legally manufactured by pharmaceutical companies specifically for HIV/AIDS and are regularly prescribed in addition to antiretroviral.
Frequently, dronabinol (marinol) is prescribed to treat AIDS-related nausea, a cannabis-related synthetically derived compound based on THC.
It’s even synthesized into an oral solution called Syndros and prescribed to both cancer and HIV/AIDS patients to treat anorexia, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting.
In many cases HIV/AIDS patients may choose traditional cannabis flower over dronabinol.
Cannabis flower can be taken in a variety of ways that HIV/AIDS patients may find more appropriate than the cumbersome pharmaceutical pills, such as sublingually, through vapor inhalation, or in edibles.
The effects can also begin immediately with cannabis flower, an important factor when looking to treat nausea as quickly as possible. Often patients report that the synthetic pharmaceutical counterparts can take up to two hours to take effect and can have unpleasant side effects of their own.
There is also significantly more control over dosage when using cannabis flower as opposed to a restricted regiment set by a drug company. This could be an important factor as the appropriate dosage of cannabinoids can be highly relative to the patient, and current medical knowledge of correct dosage is either unobtainable, or unknown.
In addition to the effective antinausea properties of medicinal cannabis, many HIV/AIDS patients report positive benefits in the following categories:
General or AIDS-related Pain
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