SUMMARY. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a common cause of death among young adults in the USA. AIDS wasting syndrome is the most common clinical presentation of AIDS. Antiretroviral drug therapy has improved the prognosis of persons with AIDS, but also contributed side effects, particularly nausea and anorexia. Case reports demonstrate persons with AIDS use cannabis as medicine to control nausea, anorexia, and pain, while noting improved mood. Recent clinical research comparing smoked cannabis to oral dronabinol (synthetic THC or Marinol®) demonstrates no immune dysfunction in persons using cannabinoids and positive weight gain when cannabinoids are compared to placebo. Harm reduction research indicates that heating cannabis to temperatures well below combustion (“vaporization”) yields active cannabinoids and a significant reduction or elimination of toxics (benzene, toluene, naphthalene, carbon monoxide, and tars) commonly found in smoked cannabis. More research is indicated but vaporizers appear to substantially reduce what is widely perceived as the leading health risk of cannabis, namely respiratory damage from smoking. In spite of a need for more rigorous scientifically controlled research, an increasing num-

KEYWORDS. Cannabis, marijuana, dronabinol, THC, Marinol®, AIDS, HIV, harm reduction, immunodeficiency, vaporization, vaporizer, wasting, anorexia, nausea, appetite, pain


The history of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) began in 1981 when the first five cases of AIDS were reported in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the disease was categorized as an epidemic. In 1984, the etiology of AIDS was found to be an RNA virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In 1985, a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed, and clinical testing for antibodies to HIV became possible.