Supplementing HCV Treatment with Cannabis: World Hepatitis Day
Here's how some hepatitis C patients are using cannabis with their treatment.
As July 28th or World Hepatitis Day approaches, the population draws its attention towards this potentially fatal disease currently infecting over 71 million patients worldwide. It's treatable, but not without dehabilitating side-effects that can sometimes cause the patient to stop treatment. Luckily, some patients are sharing their experience using cannabis to calm such side-effects, allowing them to continue the full treatment regime and rid the body of the virus.
Here you'll find a few basic facts about hepatitis, specifically C as opposed to A, B, D and E. There's two treatment options for the hepatitis C virus, both having various side-effects that can decrease the quality of one's life significantly. That's where cannabis comes in, dulling the side-effects of powerful prescription drugs without hindering their impact on the virus.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes inflammation of the liver that potentially leads to cirrhosis or liver cancer if left untreated. It's spread when an infected individual's blood enters the bloodstream of another, with over 3.5 million Americans currently living with HCV and an estimated 71 million worldwide.
Treatment for HCV involves taking medications, either direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) and ribavirin orally OR interferons in the form of shots when DAAs are not available.
"Interferons represent a group of nonspecific antiviral proteins... prevents the synthesis of viral components from the viral nucleic acid template." - Britannica
Side-Effects of HCV Treatment
Depending on the type of DAA prescribed as well as how many are taken in conjunction with one another, many HCV patients suffer from one or more of the following when taking them:
- slowed heart rate
Often prescribed with DAAs, ribavirin, a synthetic antiviral agent, has its own range of side-effects that can often affect a person's day-to-day life:
- memory loss
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- muscle pain
- hemolytic anemia
When DAAs are not available in one's region, interferons are prescribed, which often create more severe side-effects:
- dry mouth
- excessive fatigue
- mood shifts (anxiety, depression, etc.)
- difficulty sleeping
- weight loss
- hair loss
- anemia --> infection
- high blood pressure
- reduced thyroid function
- vision changes
- liver or lung disease
- pancreas or bowel inflammation
- allergic reaction
Cannabis Use for Hepatitis Treatment Side-Effects
While more studies are needed to fully understand whether or not cannabis can help HCV patients stick to their treatment plan, thus leading to improved outcomes, anecdotal evidence suggests that it could be beneficial for a great majority suffering from the side-effects their prescription medications give them. One such woman unfortunately lives in Illinois where cannabis remains illegal.
For Pain & Body Aches
Anecdotal evidence suggests cannabis can reduce pain in the body, which subsequently has led to studies investigating its ability as an analgesic medication. What was found was that strains containing higher CBD ratios assist in reducing pain, especially those of an inflammatory origin. While inflammation is a natural reaction the body produces in response to some harmful stimuli, it can often negatively influence a person’s ease of life, especially inflammation of the liver. High CBD strains can help ease body aches and pain that are often a result of HCV treatment.
Our emotions result in various chemicals being released in our brains and bodies, especially those involved in the endocrine system. Disorders such as chronic anxiety and depression, even the kinds induced by pharmaceuticals treating HCV, can be calmed using cannabis, reducing the stress that an imbalance of hormones can cause. Studies have found that CBD activates not only CB2 receptors, but TRPV1 and 5HT1A receptors that are involved in mitigating the fight or flight response. Results on how effective cannabis is in reducing anxiety/depression depend on dose, tolerance, strain, and terpenes that act synergistically with cannabinoids, while consuming above tolerance levels induces the opposite effect and increases anxiety.
For Lack of Appetite
Cannabis is known to influence hunger in opposing ways depending on the ratios of THC and CBD found in a strain, as THC induces hunger and CBD causes the stomach to feel fuller faster. Strains high in THC or low in CBD are usually the culprits of inducing what’s called the munchies which can be beneficial for those that suffer from loss of appetite while taking their medications.
For Vomiting & Nausea
It's been discovered that cannabis helps cancer patients with chemo-induced nausea. Two synthetic cannabinoids, nabilone and dronabinol, are superior in their effects of reducing nausea symptoms compared to traditional dopamine receptor antagonist medications used for calming chemotherapy-induced nausea. Investigating how real cannabinoids from the cannabis plant help reduce nausea is needed, but anecdotal evidence confirms it helps nausea for more than just cancer patients - including HCV patients.
For Fatigue & Slowed Heart Rate
THC can increase heart rate by activating specific receptors that signal the heart to pump quicker, causing blood to circulate faster and more efficiently for the patient. This of course must be studied further, but the right combination of THC and CBD has an avid following regarding cardiovascular health – especially athletes that consume it to help increase energy and focus before a workout. When the right combination of THC and CBD is found for a patient, cannabis can provide a boost of energy for the consumer.