For patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), as well as those close to them, it can be a frightening experience. The ailment leaves you wondering whether or not there exist alternative treatments, outside of what we would call mainstream or traditional.
Marijuana and Parkinson is one such area of medical research that has been going on for years. Does medical marijuana help Parkinson’s Disease?
This article provides an insightful look at the relationship between Cannabis and Parkinson.
What is Parkinson’s Disease (PD)?
Parkinson’s disease is one of the most regressive disorders of the brain. It mainly inhibits parts of the brain responsible for regulating movement. Ranking only behind Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s is typical in persons aged above 60 years (although it affects under-40s in the case of Young-Onset Parkinson Disease). There’s currently no cure for the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder, which affects how you move, write, and speak. Its symptoms start with stiffness or slight hand tremors. Bradykinesia is another familiar symptom in Parkinson’s patients where muscles stiffen, making it hard for you to move around as you did before.
Since Parkinson attacks the neurological system, older patients are likely to experience symptoms such as a non-expressional face. Some may even believe that the disease is part of the aging process.
According to multiple research, Parkinson’s disease depletes neurons in a part of the brain that produces dopamine (substantianigra). If your dopamine cells are dying or are already dead, it will be difficult for you to control body movement or do certain things. And as the disease takes root in your nervous system, dopamine levels follow a similar trajectory. Symptoms become more adverse.
While the disease may not be a direct cause of death in persons who have it, it does become pronounced over time. Parkinson is also incurable, which is why its relationship to marijuana has become a hot topic of research and discussion.
Does Medical Marijuana Treat Parkinson Disease?
Progressive research has revealed the antidepressant, neuroprotective, and antioxidative properties of medical marijuana. Because all these elements relate to Parkinson’s, cannabis may help to suppress (or even alleviate) the symptoms of this disorder.
Here’s what research says:
- In a study published in 2014, over 20 participants ailing from PD saw marginal improvements in pain, sleep, and tremors within half an hour of smoking cannabis.
- In a similar 2010 research, experts found that cannabinoids- active marijuana compounds- have anti-inflammatory properties.
- In another study published in 2019, marijuana was shown to weaken both nonmotor and motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- A European Journal of Internal Medicine study revealed that after six months of smoking medical marijuana, more than 18% of the participants had either discontinued or reduced their use of opioid-laced medications.
- A 2004 study of 339 patients uncovered that cannabis alleviated Parkinson’s symptoms in 46% of the participants. Most of them reported improvements in motor control and muscle rigidness.
As highlighted in these studies, there are specific ways that PD and marijuana may have helpful links. Here’s how:
Since marijuana boasts of potent antioxidant and antidepressant properties, experts say this could help curb neuron damage. This is essential with Parkinson because inflammation may terminate dopamine-producing brain neurons, and that’s one of the major indicators of the symptoms of this disease. If cannabis could slow some of the neuron destruction in the brain, then it could also slow the advancement of Parkinson’s disease.
More benefits of marijuana on Parkinson’s disease include help with symptoms like nausea and sleep problems. Cannabis may also help people with Parkinson to manage pain as well as enjoy better movement.
Inhaled marijuana may also be helpful with other aspects of PD, including dyskinesias, weight loss, and dystonia. But more clinical research ought to be done to prove what doses (and ratios) of cannabis work for a particular symptom.
What do the Experts say on Medical Marijuana and Parkinson’s disease correlation?
At the same time, with Parkinson’s and marijuana, there are potential risks. One of the most prominent risks is that cannabis can reduce dopamine levels in the nervous system, so experts are still looking at how they can incorporate this in the concept of PD and marijuana.
The resistance by several medical experts to endorse medical marijuana for Parkinson’s maybe, in part, due to the apathetic stance of the Parkinson’s Foundation. It reiterates that “research is still needed to determine how medical marijuana should be administered and how its long-term use can affect symptoms of PD.”
Some researchers also site downfalls with cannabis and Parkinson’s. They include behavioral changes, risk of lung cancer, as well as the loss of balance.
In light of these adverse effects, experts recommend different ways to explore the benefits of medical cannabis without having to inhale or smoke. One such idea is the use of CBD– a nonpsychoactive, therapeutic element of cannabis that doesn’t cause you to be high. You cannot smoke CBD either and is readily available in diverse forms, including in oils, teas, and extracts.
However, not all hope is lost. Parkinson’s News Today has been more vocal in appreciating the potential benefits of cannabis, more so for patients aged 50 and beyond.
The question “Can marijuana treat Parkinson’s disease” isn’t an uncommon one. There is a growing body of scientific research depicting a beneficial relationship between marijuana and Parkinson’s. This means that cannabis could offer pain relief, act as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as a neuroprotectant. While more clinical studies and research are needed to determine the efficacy and safety of marijuana for Parkinson’s disease exhaustively, the current evidence offers hope for millions of patients all over the world.