Many diseases afflict people, both curable and incurable. Huntington’s disease is one of the incurable illness that occurs due to cell degeneration. Patients are born with the condition, and it progressively worsens over a person’s lifetime. Treatment options such as medical marijuana help patients manage the disease.
What is Huntington’s disease?
Huntington’s disease is an incurable illness caused by a defective gene. Patients inherit the defective genes and carry the disease from birth. The nerve cells in the brain slowly break down, which leads to the loss of mental and physical functions over time. Since the disease acts gradually, many patients display symptoms in their thirties and worsen over ten to twenty years. However, there is also a Juvenile onset of the illness where symptoms start showing in childhood and adolescence.
It becomes harder to remember and make decisions, talk, swallow, walk, and maintain a steady gait, and care for oneself. The patients also experience personality changes and may become depressed and suicidal. Impulse control, learning capacity, and awareness of oneself also decrease.
Since no cure exists for Huntington’s disease, the treatments only help manage the symptoms. Powerful medication can help to control seizures and psychiatric disorders. However, eventually, the medicine becomes ineffective.
Other treatment options include psychotherapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and support aids. Medical marijuana is also an alternative treatment for the disease. Anecdotal evidence suggests that patients can benefit significantly from marijuana treatments.
Eventually, death results from effects of the disease, rather than the illness itself. Poor nutrition causes severe weight loss and lower immunity. Patients often succumb to infections, pneumonia, heart failure, fall-related injuries, and suicide.
What Is Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is a source of relief for anyone seeking alternative treatments. The term refers to the cannabis plant, which can be consumed whole, or extracts that manage conditions. On the federal level, marijuana is illegal, but 33 states, the District of Columbia and four out of five US territories, allow medical marijuana use.
The scientific study of cannabis has led to the production of FDA– approved medications that contain cannabinoids extracted from marijuana. Currently, the two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD. The former is responsible for the psychoactive effects of consuming cannabis- it gets you “stoned” or “high.” THC also boosts appetite while suppressing nausea. CBD, on the other hand, has no psychoactive effects but helps with muscle control and inflammation.
Huntington’s disease primarily affects neurons known as medium spiny neurons (MSNs), which form approximately 95% of the human striatum. These neurons are essential for initiating and controlling the movement of the limbs and performing cognitive and emotional functions.
Your body has elaborate systems, and one of these is the endocannabinoid system. It comprises of receptors and endocannabinoids that work to regulate homeostatic functions. Some of the identified receptors are CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain (in MSNs). They are thought to have psychoactive effects when acted on by cannabinoids. CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system and affect inflammation.
Huntington’s disease leads to the loss of CB1 receptors in the brain, which ultimately affects normal function. Since THC activated CB1 receptors, the idea of marijuana treatment is to activate them and reduce degeneration.
Studies in mice have found that the inactivation of CB1 receptors aggravates the development of Huntington’s disease. However, upon the introduction of THC, the disease’s progression slowed, and the motor symptoms decreased.
As the disease progresses, CB2 receptors increase in the striatum, which is perhaps the body’s way of dealing with the illness. CB2 targeting cannabinoids calm the immune system, which may result in less nerve death.
Unfortunately, while these results are excellent, translating them to the human body is complicated. Preclinical trials have no found evidence of a reduction in Huntington’s disease symptoms after the administration of cannabinoids- both extracted and synthetic. However, the results may improve if the trials attempt to provide cannabinoid dosages in earlier stages of the disease to slow down degeneration.
Currently, anecdotal evidence suggests that medical marijuana is beneficial. Some patients report reduced chorea from consuming CBD oil. Full-spectrum oil is also helpful in managing depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions associated with Huntington’s disease. Cannabis also has a strong potential to control convulsions such as seizures and help with bladder control functions.
Smoking marijuana is the quickest way to enjoy the benefits, but smoking is associated with respiratory problems. Fortunately, it’s possible to consume full plant extracts through oils and capsules. There are also CBD extracts that provide muscle relief without making you high. However, marijuana has an entourage effect when consumed whole, which is more beneficial in some instances.
How We Can Help
At MMJ Doctors, we specialize in obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation from a qualified doctor; therefore, make it possible for you to access medical marijuana legally in Maryland. Book an appointment with us today and enjoy the benefits of marijuana therapy.