Possible effect of medical marijuana on Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It results from the loss of cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical that controls the body’s movements. As dopamine decreases, tremors can develop, muscle movements become slower and more rigid, and reflexes become impaired contributing to a loss of balance. Other symptoms may include depression, anxiety, emotional changes, cognitive impairment, difficulty swallowing, chewing and speaking, masked facial expressions, urinary problems, constipation, fatigue, and sleep problems. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. The cause is unknown, and although there is currently no cure, medications and other treatment options are available to manage its symptoms.
While the role of cannabis in treating Parkinson’s disease still requires a great deal of academic research, early anecdotal evidence is beginning to show some positive prospects:
According to the National Parkinson Foundation, researchers began to show enthusiasm to study the relationship between cannabis and Parkinson’s disease after people with the condition shared their experiences on social media on how cannabis helped reduced their tremors. Some researchers say that cannabis might be neuroprotective (i.e. save neurons from damage caused by Parkinson’s disease). In addition to reducing tremor, cannabis has also been studied for use in treating other symptoms, like bradykinesia (slowness caused by PD) and dyskinesia (excess movement caused by levodopa).
According to The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids for Movement Disorders – Clinical observations and clinical trials of cannabinoid-based therapies suggests a possible benefit of cannabinoids for tics and probably no benefit for tremor in multiple sclerosis or dyskinesias or motor symptoms in PD. Despite the widespread publicity about the medical benefits of cannabinoids, further preclinical and clinical research is needed to better characterize the pharmacological, physiological and therapeutic effects of this class of drugs in movement disorders.
The authors of a study titled Cannabinoids reduce levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease: a pilot study demonstrated that the cannabinoid receptor agonist nabilone significantly reduces levodopa-induced dyskinesia in PD.
Although, further clinical investigation is needed to ascertain the definite effect of medical marijuana on Parkinson’s disease but there is a possible that the drug might be of help in the management or even treatment of the disease.
Food for thought
- Each day in Canada, more than 10 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
- Symptoms are often on only one side of the body, or are asymmetric, which persists throughout life
- Although research is ongoing, to date there is no known cure or way to prevent Parkinson’s disease
- To date, there is no known way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. But, there are several treatment options, including drug therapy and/or surgery that can reduce the symptoms, and make living with the disease easier
- Exposure to paraquat, a pesticide, triples a person’s risk of getting Parkinson’s disease
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