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Cannabis Use & Hepatitis C

Buds of Pure Kush, a possible treatment for Hepatitas C, wait to be loaded into a prescription bottle.

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Cannabis Use & Hepatitis C

In her presentation at the eighth National Conference on Cannabinoid Medicine, Diane Sylvestre, M.D., urged caution to those with hepatitis C virus (HCV) in their use of marijuana.

In the U.S. alone, four million people have the virus, and some don’t even know it. Until 1992, blood donors were not routinely tested, so while the epidemic was silently incubating in the bloodstreams of Americans, one out of 10 people who received a blood transfusion became infected. This is no longer the route of transmission; instead HCV has become spread mainly through IV drug use.

Of those infected with the virus, 25 percent will be lucky enough to have a spontaneous remission and eliminate it from their blood. In the other three-quarters, it often lies dormant until the immune system goes into attack mode, leading to scar tissue in the liver, cirrhosis, a higher incidence of liver cancer and even death. Fortunately, there is now a 90 percent cure rate with new drugs, so people are encouraged to get tested and get treated.

Common symptoms of chronic HCV include weight loss, nausea and digestive problems — all symptoms alleviated by use of medical cannabis. However, while cannabis may help with these immediate symptoms, it has also been shown in studies to be correlated with increased fibrosis (scarring) of the liver. With too much scarring comes cirrhosis.

Dr. Sylvestre reviewed the three studies that have been done to date. One of them, which was retrospective (looking back at patient records) show four times as much fibrosis in patients who used cannabis daily. What was unclear was the amount that led to the result.

The second study looked at current patients and also showed increased fibrosis with cannabis use as indicated by liver biopsy. The third study looked at the level of liver enzymes (which is only an indirect method to determine whether the scarring is occurring) and found that there was no correlation between cannabis use and fibrosis.

Do you or someone you know suffer from Hepatitis C and use cannabis to alleviate symptoms? Tell us in the comments below!

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Paul

    September 30, 2014 at 5:12 am

    After some years as a Paramedic, I was tested FOR HCV in 2010-after experiencing debilitating fatigue.I also suffer from a Degenerative Spinal Disease and INTRACTABLE(Inoperable) PAIN~
    The Liver Biopsy and subsequent followup tests confirmed I had CHRONIC Hepatitis-C, meaning I was(obviously) infected WAY before I was diagnosed in 2010.It’s anyone’s guess as I was NOT an I.V. drug user.
    I began Interferon/Ribavirin treatments as soon as was feasible.
    IT-WAS-HELL!~
    WERE IT NOT FOR(my) DAILY Cannabis use DURING my treatment, I KNOW I would NOT have been able to complete the 52 week-course of Treatment.
    I tested “Cleared” after 6 months and REMAIN clear to this day.
    It was neccessary to make SOME modifications in diet and I have NEVER liked Alcohol anyway-my preference was AND STILL IS Cannabis.

    Cannabis (UNLIKE Marinpl®) ALLEVIATED/REMOVED the “I want to KILL myself” feeling-in my head-that the TREATMENT CA– USES. It also STOPPED the “Emotional INSTABILITY”, along with the Lack of sleep, CONSTANT Nausea and the other FUN Side-effects of the TX drugs.NOT to mention being THE-BEST Pain “Meds” I’ve used-Morphine included.

    My own research has yielded that, as my life-span MAY be shortened due to the LATE diagnosis of my HCV (4MILLION), I RELIGIOUSLY, yet sparingly, use Cannabis as needed to aid in Digestion, Sleep, Pain control and feeling well in addition and leading a “more normal” life and ALLOWING me to work DURING treatment.

    MORE research is needed in THIS specific are as the Biochemical and Neurochemical actions OF Cannabis are NOT WELL UNDERSTOOD, especially as Cannabis aides in the Homeostasis of the Intestinal tract.
    As CANNABIS DOE CURE CANCER, I suspect the studies that show its HARM to the Liver are HIGHLY inaccurate or INCOMPLETE.

    Just my 2 cents, but I would NOT BE HERE, were it not for Cannabis-use as an Anti emetic(nausea calmer) and Analgesic.NOT to mention COMFORT and Maintaining my sanity.

    I realize my experiences of my using Cannabis for this(these) conditions my NOT be so “unique” as many patients report similar effects from using it.

    I hope this may help someone.
    God Bless and Peace!~

    • Renee

      October 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      I too have chronic hep c, got it in a transfusion when I was 15 years old. my father also got transfused 9 years before me and he passed away form it 21 years ago at only 55 years old…I too took just the interferon for 52 weeks in 1996-1997 and it did not work..they gave me 3-5 years to life and I was only 33…smoked a half joint every afternoon and also around 2 hours before bed…it helped with the tx…then from 2000-2001 I took the Rebetron, but with 5x the interferon I was taking prior at 15 million units instead of 3….cannabis helped me through those tough days and to this day, I still smoke a little in the afternoon and finish off my joint in the evening…..I have also learned to make oil and make really good cookies that are just strong enough to take away the nausea…..I started the Rick Simpson Oil in March and it saved my life….spent 1 month in the hospital and they told me that I got there on time….I believe the RSO really did save my life…..I had lost 40+ lbs and now I have regained back 20,,,,I look healthier….feel healthier and cannabis saved my life even with the depression and suicidal thoughts.the pain was sooo bad that only surgery could save me……..I believe that the article above saying it causes fibrosis, well they really do not have any proof of this….this cures cancer, Parkinson Disease and so many more to name…..please watch Run From The Cure the Rick Simpson Story on Youtube…….it will change your life

  2. Viola

    June 27, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Yes, I know someone with hep c

  3. Antoinette Furr

    May 24, 2014 at 4:21 am

    My husband is a veteran and uses cannabis daily for chronic pain due osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other ailments,all of which are re service related. Due to a contaminated needle used to administer immunizations to the soldiers serving in the Army. The doctors diagnosed him with the Hepatitis C back in the 1990’s. He is 100% disabled.The hepatitis has remained dormant for nearly the 20 years. He does suffer with digestive issues,but the VA physician believes his gallbladder is to blame. Unfortunately, we relocated to Colorado before they could do anything. His VA doctor also told us about a possible treatment, which has been successful in curing him of the Hepatitis C,some form of chemo. However, we were never told about the increased risks on the liver in Hepatitis C patients who used cannabis daily. Really worried for him. Please let me what steps to take,tests to push for, and are the risks the same whether you smoke cannabis or use in other forms,like edibles, beverages, etc. Please contact me through messaging on Facebook. We would be grateful to you.

  4. Jack

    May 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    yes me… i have also had a liver transplant

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