A1 Marijuana Doctors Logo


Cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome, is a complex metabolic disorder characterised by severe weight loss, muscle atrophy, fatigue, and weakness. This condition often occurs in individuals with advanced chronic illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure, and COPD. Cachexia significantly impacts a person’s quality of life, making daily activities and medical treatments more challenging. Although primarily caused by an underlying chronic illness, factors such as inflammation, metabolic changes, and hormonal imbalances contribute to its development. Early intervention, nutritional support, physical activity, and addressing the underlying illness are crucial strategies for managing cachexia and improving patient outcomes.

What is Cachexia

Cachexia is a complex metabolic syndrome characterised by severe and involuntary weight loss, muscle wasting, and a decline in overall physical function.


Some common signs and symptoms of cachexia include:

  • Severe weight loss, including loss of muscle mass and fat tissue
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite or anorexia
  • Swelling or edema due to fluid retention
  • Reduced functional ability or impaired mobility
  • Difficulty with breathing (in cases associated with lung diseases)
  • Decreased immune function


Cachexia is primarily caused by an underlying chronic illness or medical condition, which triggers a series of metabolic changes and inflammatory responses in the body. Some factors that contribute to the development of cachexia include:

  1. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can lead to increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which contribute to muscle wasting and altered metabolism.
  2. Metabolic changes: In response to the underlying illness, the body may undergo metabolic changes, leading to increased energy expenditure, reduced food intake, and impaired nutrient absorption.
  3. Hormonal imbalances: Certain hormonal imbalances, such as elevated cortisol levels, can contribute to muscle breakdown and weight loss in cachexia.


Preventing cachexia can be challenging due to its association with severe chronic illnesses. However, some strategies can help manage or slow the progression of cachexia in affected individuals:

  1. Early intervention: Identifying and addressing cachexia in its early stages can help improve outcomes and slow progression. This may include monitoring weight loss, muscle mass, and functional ability.
  2. Nutritional support: Ensuring adequate nutritional intake through a balanced diet or supplementation can help provide the necessary nutrients and energy for individuals with cachexia.
  3. Physical activity: Engaging in regular, appropriate physical activity can help maintain muscle mass, strength, and mobility.
  4. Pharmacological interventions: In some cases, medications or hormone therapies may be used to help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, or stimulate appetite.
  5. Addressing the underlying illness: Effective treatment and management of the underlying chronic illness can help alleviate cachexia symptoms and improve overall health.

It is essential to work closely with a healthcare team to develop a comprehensive care plan tailored to the individual’s needs, addressing both the underlying illness and the associated cachexia symptoms.

Medical Marijuana as a Treatment 

Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, refers to the use of the Cannabis plant and its components (cannabinoids) to treat various medical conditions, including cachexia. The two main cannabinoids used for medicinal purposes are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

How does medical marijuana help?

Medical marijuana has been suggested to help alleviate some symptoms commonly associated with cachexia:

  1. Appetite stimulation: THC is known to stimulate appetite, which can be beneficial for individuals with cachexia experiencing reduced food intake or anorexia.
  2. Pain relief: Both THC and CBD have analgesic properties that may help manage chronic pain often associated with cachexia and its underlying illnesses.
  3. Anti-inflammatory effects: Medical cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation that contributes to muscle wasting and altered metabolism in cachexia.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes for Cachexia

In addition to the major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, there are other minor cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis plants that may have potential benefits for managing cachexia symptoms.

Which cannabinoids and terpenes are most effective?

  1. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA): THCA is the non-psychoactive precursor to THC and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, which may be beneficial for individuals with cachexia.
  2. Beta-caryophyllene: This terpene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, potentially providing relief from pain and inflammation associated with cachexia.
  3. Humulene: Humulene is a terpene with potential appetite-suppressing effects. In the context of cachexia, this property may be useful in combination with appetite-stimulating cannabinoids to modulate food intake and maintain a healthy balance.

It’s important to note that research on specific cannabinoids and terpenes for cachexia is still limited, and more studies are needed to determine their safety and efficacy. If you are considering using medical marijuana for cachexia symptoms, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about medical cannabis. They can help you determine the most appropriate treatment plan and monitor your progress to ensure the safe and effective use of medical marijuana for your specific needs.

Dosage and Consumption Methods

Recommended dosage:

Figuring out the right dose of medical marijuana can be hard because people’s reactions to cannabinoids and terpenes can be very different. Factors such as the specific condition being treated, the patient’s weight, metabolism, and prior experience with cannabis all play a role in determining the right dosage.
Most of the time, it is best to start with a low dose and slowly increase it until you get the effects you want while minimising any possible side effects. For patients who are new to medical marijuana, starting with 2.5–5 mg of THC or CBD and slowly titrating upwards is often advised.

However, consulting a healthcare professional experienced in medical marijuana is essential to developing a personalised dosing plan tailored to the patient’s needs.

Consumption methods:

There are several methods of consuming medical marijuana, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Some common consumption methods include:

  1. Inhalation (smoking or vaping): Inhalation provides rapid onset of effects, usually within minutes, making it suitable for patients requiring immediate relief. However, smoking may pose respiratory risks, while vaping has been associated with lung injuries in some cases.
  2. Oral ingestion (edibles, capsules, tinctures): Ingesting medical marijuana provides longer-lasting effects compared to inhalation but has a slower onset, typically taking 30 minutes to 2 hours for effects to be felt. This method is suitable for patients requiring sustained relief but may require careful dosing to avoid overconsumption.
  3. Topical application (creams, balms, patches): Topicals can provide localised relief for conditions such as arthritis or skin disorders without producing psychoactive effects. The onset of action and duration of effects can vary depending on the product formulation and individual absorption rates.
  4. Sublingual administration (tinctures, dissolvable strips): Sublingual products are absorbed through the mucous membranes under the tongue, providing rapid onset of effects without the need for inhalation or ingestion. This method offers discreet consumption and precise dosing.

Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card

Why get a medical marijuana card?

Getting a medical marijuana card is helpful for patients who are looking for other ways to treat their conditions.

  1. Legal protection: A medical marijuana card allows patients to possess, use, and in some cases, cultivate cannabis for medical purposes, within their state’s legal limits.
  2. Access to quality products: Medical marijuana dispensaries offer a wide range of tested and regulated cannabis products, ensuring patients receive safe and effective medication.
  3. Tax savings: In some states, medical marijuana patients are exempt from certain taxes applied to recreational cannabis sales.
  4. Professional guidance: Medical marijuana cardholders have access to healthcare professionals who can provide personalised recommendations, dosing advice, and ongoing support.

How to apply:

The process of obtaining a medical marijuana card varies by state but generally involves the following steps:

  1. Consult with medical marijuana consultants to determine if medical marijuana is appropriate for your condition and obtain a written recommendation.
  2. Complete an application with the required documentation, including proof of residency, identification, and the healthcare professional’s recommendation.
  3. Submit the application to the appropriate state agency, along with any required fees.
  4. Await approval and issuance of the medical marijuana card.

Risks and Side Effects

Potential risks:

While medical marijuana can offer relief and improve the quality of life for many patients, it also carries certain risks and side effects. Some potential risks associated with medical marijuana use include:

  1. Dependency and addiction: Although the risk of addiction is considered lower than that of opioids or alcohol, some individuals may develop a dependency on cannabis.
  2. Impaired cognitive function: THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, can impair memory, attention, and reaction times, particularly with prolonged or heavy use.
  3. Respiratory issues: Smoking cannabis can cause respiratory problems, including bronchitis and lung irritation. Vaping has also been linked to lung injuries in some cases.
  4. Mental health concerns: High doses of THC or predisposition to mental health disorders can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia, or exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
  5. Drug interactions: Medical marijuana may interact with other medications, either enhancing or diminishing their effects. It is essential to discuss potential drug interactions with a healthcare professional before starting medical marijuana therapy.


Medical marijuana might not be right for every patient, especially those who already have certain health problems or risk factors. Contraindications to medical marijuana use may include:

  1. Personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction
  2. Severe liver or kidney disease
  3. Severe cardiovascular disease
  4. Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  5. History of psychosis or other severe mental health disorders
  6. Allergies or hypersensitivity to cannabis or its components

Legal Status

Where is it legal?

In the United States, the laws about medical marijuana are always changing. Currently, over 30 states and the District of Columbia allow its use under certain conditions. Each state has its own rules and a list of medical conditions that are allowed to use medical marijuana.

Even though some states have made medical marijuana legal, it is still illegal at the federal level because it is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

This difference between state and federal laws can make it harder for medical marijuana patients to get jobs, find housing, or travel across state lines, among other things. Patients should research their state’s guidelines and remain aware of potential legal risks.


Medical marijuana could help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for many people with long-term or debilitating illnesses.

When thinking about this treatment option, it’s important to know the right dose, how to use it, how to get a medical marijuana card, possible risks, side effects, and legal status.

Work closely with a doctor or nurse who knows a lot about medical marijuana to find out if it is a good and safe choice for your needs.

As the legal landscape surrounding medical marijuana continues to evolve, staying informed about changing regulations and guidelines is essential to ensuring responsible and compliant use.

As the field of medical marijuana continues to evolve, it’s crucial for patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers to stay informed about the latest research and developments. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current landscape, but it’s always important to consult with healthcare providers for personalized advice.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.