Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
Marijuana and AIDS: A Four-Year
Patients reported reduced levels of
pain, nausea and insomnia--and increased appetite.
by David Jay Brown, Kenneth Michael Smuland,
and Valerie Corral
The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is a cultivation
collective in Northern California with approximately 150-175 patient-members,
who suffer from a range of debilitating illnesses, including cancer, AIDS,
epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. In 1993 the authors undertook to
assess the medical effectiveness of marijuana on WAMM’s AIDS patients.
Previous studies have demonstrated marijuana’s usefulness in reducing nausea
and vomiting1 , stimulating appetite and promoting weight gain2 and diminishing
intra-ocular pressure from glaucoma3 . There is also evidence that marijuana
reduces muscle spasticity from spinal cord injuries4 and multiple sclerosis5,
and diminishes tremors in multiple sclerosis6.
WAMM developed an assessment form —known as an analog— for the symptoms that
marijuana is reputed to alleviate. Weekly reports were collected from members.
All of the patients studied had AIDS. The symptoms assessed were pain, nausea,
insomnia, and lack of appetite.
This study ran from June 1993 through December 1997. Data were collected by
means of analogs given by WAMM to each of its patient-members with their
weekly supply of medical marijuana. Our analog was adapted from one used
in Charles Grob’s MDMA studies with pancreatic cancer patients7, revised
by AIDS patients to incorporate their symptoms. The patients were asked to
mark on the analogs how they felt before and after they smoked marijuana
with respect to each of the applicable symptoms.
The scale on the analogs ranged from zero to 10, with 10 being the highest
intensity level of symptom or physical-emotional state (pain, nausea, insomnia,
There were a total of 264 subjects with AIDS in the study—44 women and 220
men—however not all of the symptoms measured on the analogs applied to all
of the subjects.
For 29 women the medium average level of pain reported prior to using marijuana
was 6.5. After using the medication the medium average level of pain dropped
to 3.2. The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 1.45E-08.
For 37 women the medium average level of nausea reported prior to using marijuana
was 5.2. After using the medication the medium average level of nausea dropped
to 3.1. The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 0.003.
For 44 women the medium average appetite level reported prior to using marijuana
was 2.3. After using the medication the medium average appetite level rose
to 6.3. The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 8.33E-15.
For 29 women the medium average level of insomnia reported prior to using marijuana
was 7.2. After using the medication the medium average level dropped to 3.4.
The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 8.33E-15.
For 175 men the medium average level of pain reported prior to using marijuana
was 5.9. After using the medication the medium average pain level dropped to
2.4. The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 4.3E-30.
For 203 men the medium average level of nausea reported prior to using marijuana
was 5.4. After using the medication the medium average level of nausea dropped
to 2.8, The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 3.25E-25.
For 220 men the medium average appetite level reported prior to using marijuana
was 3.3. After using the medication the medium average appetite level rose
to 6.2. The result of the two-tailed t-test P(T<=t) was 1.72E-33. (continued
AIDS Patient' Perceived Level of
pain, nausea, insomnia, and lack of appetite before and after
smoking marijuana was reported on a scale of 1-10. Forty-four
women and 220 men participated in the four-year study. Not
all subjects reported with respect to all symptoms.
This study indicates that these AIDS patients believed that they experienced
significantly less pain, nausea, and insomnia, and had much greater appetites
after using marijuana (See Tables I & 2 and Graphs I & 2).
In this study we were testing the null hypothesis that AIDS patients would
not experience any significant difference in their symptoms before and after
using marijuana. In every case our results indicated a rejection of the null
hypothesis with a statistical significance greater than 0.01. This is consistent
with previous studies and claims, which suggest that marijuana can help reduce
pain and nausea, improve appetites, and help people sleep better.
Improving the quality of an AIDS patient’s life
increases the probability that person will stick with other lifesaving
For someone with AIDS—a condition that requires a lifetime of chemotherapy—these
improvements can mean the difference between life and death. Improving
the quality of an AIDS patient’s life increases the probability that
that person will stick with other lifesaving medical procedures, some
of which have extremely uncomfortable side-effects. In addition to
reducing the side-effects from other types of medication, marijuana
can serve as a powerful appetite-stimulant for those suffering from
the AIDS Wasting Syndrome.
The subjective nature of analog responses inherently raises questions
of reliability. In this study a possible source of bias may stem from
a tendency for marijuana users to exaggerate how much better they felt
after using the medication. This seems unlikely, however, as they would
have little motivation for doing so.
Although it is beyond our current ability to know with any certainty how much
bias influenced our data, it is evident that many AIDS patients report significant
benefits from using marijuana. Because of this, and the lack of any serious
side-effects, marijuana appears to be a powerful medical tool for dealing with
the serious consequences of AIDS.
WAMM is conducting ongoing research into the effects of marijuana
on patients with AIDS and other illnesses, including cancer, epilepsy,
multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. Research is required to determine
the effects exerted by different strains of the marijuana plant, and
the efficacy of various delivery systems (vaporizing, eating, tinctures,
The authors wish to thank all those who took part in this study.
WAMM is a collective run entirely by patients and caregivers. It relies on
tax-deductible donations to continue its operation, and the valuable research
its doing. For reprint requests and correspondence contact:
309 Cedar ST # 39
Santa Cruz, California 95060
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