According to a recent study, marijuana enhances the efficacy of drug treatment for hepatitis C. Over 3 million Americans are affected by this fatal viral infection. The findings of this study support the idea that pot can offer medical benefits in certain situations.
Two strong drugs: interferon and ribavirin are used for hepatitis C therapy. This treatment prolongs for months and has serious side effects like extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. Most of the patients fail to complete the treatment due to the severe side effects and end up getting their livers destroyed by the virus.
The progress of 71 hepatitis C patients undergoing the tough treatment was monitored by the researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and at an Oakland substance abuse center.
It was found through tests and interviews that 22 smoked marijuana every day or every other day, whereas 49 hardly did during the treatment period.
By the end of the 6-month treatment, it was found that 19 (86%) of those who smoked marijuana had successfully finished the treatment. Where as, only 29 (59%) of the nonsmokers could complete the therapy.
Likewise, a "sustained virological response" i.e., no trace of virus in the bodies of patients 6 months after the treatment, was observed in 54% of the marijuana users and only 18% of the nonsmokers.
According to the researchers, there is a possibility of marijuana having an actual positive medical effect. However, it is more likely that marijuana helped patients by decrease of depression, improvement of appetite, psychological benefits that help in tolerating the side effects of the therapy.
This study has been published in the recent issue of the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.