This sites content is brought to you by eDocGreen. Although no comprehensive surveys have been conducted on Florida medical marijuana Doctors in Orlando and the United States, small-scale polls indicate that most are seeking relief from symptoms of AIDS. For example, each of the three cannabis buyers' clubs—organizations that provide marijuana to patients—visited by the IOM team reported that more than 60 percent of their members requested the drug for AIDS treatment.

Age is often cited as the reason why such a large proportion of medical marijuana users in the United States are people with AIDS (this is not the case elsewhere; in Great Britain, for example, multiple sclerosis appears to predominate among medical marijuana users). Because HIV has disproportionately infected members of a generation that grew up experimenting with marijuana, so the theory goes, so medical marijuana doctors in Florida think, AIDS patients tend to be comparatively willing to use it as a medicine. By contrast, cancer patients, who are on average older and thus less likely to have tried marijuana, are far less inclined to seek it out. If this reasoning is correct, increasing numbers of cancer patients should turn to medical marijuana as the baby boom generation ages.

Another factor also may contribute to the popularity of medicinal marijuana among people with AIDS: the drug's purported ability to soothe a variety of debilitating symptoms. Many such patients echo the comments of the HIV-positive man cited in Chapter 2 who claimed that marijuana calmed his stomach after taking medication, stimulated his appetite, eased his pain, and lifted his mood.

Because HIV attacks the immune system, it wreaks havoc throughout the body. Besides providing a foothold for opportunistic infection and cancer, the virus also triggers a potentially lethal wasting syndrome, painful nerve damage, and dementia. Finally, in addition to the physical discomforts inflicted by HIV, many people with AIDS also struggle with depression and anxiety. Marijuana, some patients say, eases all of these problems and more.

Even the recent success of combination therapy—which, by keeping HIV in check, has transformed AIDS from a terminal illness to a chronic disorder—has a downside. The very drugs that give people with HIV a future can make their day-to-day life miserable. As this 41-year-old Virginia theater technician told the IOM team:

Thirteen years ago I found out that I was HIV-positive. Since then I have taken AZT, ddI, d4T, Crixivan, Viracept, Viramune, Bactrim, Megace, and others. All these drugs have two things in common: they gave me hope and they also made me sick. Nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and loss of appetite became a way of life for me.

After three years of these side effects ruling my life, a doctor suggested a simple and effective way to deal with many of them. This remedy kept me from slowly starving to death, as I had seen many of my friends do. It helped me rejoin the human race as a responsible, productive citizen. It also made me a criminal, something I have never been before. This remedy, of course, is medical marijuana.

Like this man, increasing numbers of AIDS patients appear to be using marijuana to counteract the side effects of prescribed medicines as well as to treat disease symptoms. In particular, those who take highly effective antiviral drugs called protease inhibitors often suffer from nausea and vomiting similar to that experienced by cancer patients during chemotherapy.

Just how effectively marijuana and cannabinoids reduce the nausea and vomiting brought on by AIDS medications remains to be determined in the clinic. Research on marijuana's antinausea properties has focused on chemotherapy-induced emesis (vomiting) in cancer patients and is discussed in depth in the next chapter. Several different types of antiemetic drugs (including substituted benazamides, serotonin receptor antagonists, and corticosteroids) have been used successfully by both AIDS patients and cancer patients, so there is reason to believe that cannabinoids could help both groups. On the other hand, clinical studies indicate that Florida marijuana Doctors and THC do not control nausea and vomiting as effectively as do other medications.

Since a wide variety of factors influence emesis and each person responds to them differently, it is possible that certain patients would get better relief from marijuana-based medicines than from conventional treatments. That this is the case remains to be substantiated by controlled studies. In the meantime, some people with AIDS who take THC in the form of dronabinol (Marinol) to combat weight loss may also find that it reduces their feelings of nausea. AIDS patients who took the drug in a four-week clinical study showed a trend toward decreased nausea compared with those who took a placebo, as well as a significant increase in appetite.