Science / Health

Do You Qualify for an MMJ Card When You Have Cachexia?

Cachexia is a serious, debilitating condition that results in a poor prognosis.  In the industrialized world, it currently affects around 1% of the patient population, which is around 9 million people.  Its prevalence ranges from 5-15% in end-stage chronic heart failure to 50-80% in advanced cancer.

What is Cachexia?

Cachexia is a condition that causes the body’s muscles to waste away.  It is often expressed in experiencing weight loss and can include loss of body fat. 

Cachexia makes patients suffering from chronic conditions lose both fat and muscle involuntarily because of factors that cannot be controlled. 

In these conditions, metabolism changes, causing the body to break down too much muscle.  Inflammation can also affect your appetite and make your body burn more calories than it should.

Categories of Cachexia

1.    Pre Cachexia

You can lose approximately 5% of your body weight due to a known disease in this category.  You will experience loss of appetite, changes in metabolism, and inflammation.

2.    Cachexia

This is where you lose more than 5% of your body weight in 12 months or less without trying to lose weight.  You will experience decreased appetite, inflammation, fatigue, and loss of muscle strength.

3.    Refractory Cachexia

When you have cancer and lose weight, muscle, function, and lack of response to cancer treatment, your condition falls under this category.

What Causes Cachexia Syndrome?

There isn’t clear evidence as to how cachexia occurs, but some scientists believe that cancer causes the immune system to release certain chemicals into the blood that cause the loss of fat and muscles. 

The common causes and associated conditions of cachexia include:

  • Dysphagia
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Cancer or surgery of the gut
  • Severe pain due to certain diseases
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • HIV
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Different types of cancer (particularly of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, colon, and rectum)
  • Elderly patients
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Malaria
  • Stroke
  • Neurodegenerative disease

Signs and Symptoms of Cachexia

Some underlying signs and symptoms that remain consistent across different diagnoses of cachexia include:

  • Increased metabolic rate and energy expenditure
  • Reduced nutrient intake or availability
  • Increased breakdown of muscle
  • Prevention of muscle growth

Main Features of Cachexia

To be diagnosed with cachexia, you must have lost at least 5 percent of your body weight within the last 12 months or less, with the associated cachexia conditions mentioned above.  You must also be experiencing at least three of these findings:

  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss (anorexia)
  • Low fat-free mass index (a calculation based on your weight, body fat, and height)
  • High levels of inflammation identified by blood tests
  • Anemia (low red blood cells)
  • Low levels of the protein, albumin

Treatment of Cachexia

Currently, there is no specific treatment or way to reverse cachexia.  There are ways, however, to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life.

 Your doctor can recommend any of these approaches or a combination of some:

  • Appetite stimulants
  • Medicine to improve nausea, appetite, and mood
  • Medication that decreases inflammation
  • Diet changes
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Adapted exercise

Alternative Option

Medical marijuana is another option that cachexia patients can give a try.  The treatment for cachexia is dependent on the underlying cause, and typically involves some form of a pharmaceutical appetite stimulant. Learn how to get access to medical marijuana from

If you have a loved one, suffering from the disease, the recommended steps to support a person with cachexia include:

  1. Cachexia patients lose interest in eating, so you can try and make eating a meal fun.  This will make eating seem less like a chore.  Give them control over what they eat, even if they only snack while you are eating a full meal.  Getting something in their stomach is better than nothing at all.
  2. When muscle mass and weight are lost because of cachexia, a person will feel weak and frail.  Encourage lifting a few light weights or going for a walk.  This could lift their spirits.

Medical Marijuana for Cachexia

Cachexia can take a toll on both patients and caregivers. Getting professional care can help do wonders. 

If you feel like you could use some professional and medical assistance with the use of medical marijuana for Cachexia, visit

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