Can Marijuana Treat Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, permanent condition that affects the nervous system. Over time, stiffness and slowed cognition can develop. Eventually, this can lead to more severe symptoms, such as moving and speech difficulties. You may even experience tremors as well as posture changes.
Researchers are constantly looking for new therapies that can help people manage PD symptoms and overall quality of life. Marijuana is one possible alternative treatment.
Numerous studies have been conducted on marijuana and its active components. While not entirely conclusive, the research on marijuana shows promise for people with PD. It may help with overall symptom management.
Read on to learn more about the uses of marijuana for PD.
For PD, marijuana is thought to provide numerous benefits, including:
- pain relief
- reduced tremors
- better quality of sleep
- improved overall mood
- more ease in movement
These benefits are attributed to the muscle-relaxing and analgesic effects of marijuana.
Though marijuana can come with minor side effects, some people prefer these over some of the risk factors associated with common PD medications. Certain drugs for Parkinson’s disease can cause:
- ankle swelling
- blotching of the skin
- involuntary movements
- memory problems
- liver damage
- problems urinating
Research into marijuana’s effects on health are prominent as more states work toward legalization. In one study published in 2014 , 22 participants with PD saw improvement in sleep, tremors, and pain within 30 minutes of smoking marijuana.
In another study published in 2010 , researchers found that cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabinoids are active compounds in marijuana. These may help reduce symptoms in a variety of related diseases.
The research into potential effects of marijuana for PD is ongoing. Larger studies may need to be conducted before it’s a widely accepted treatment.
Despite the potential benefits of marijuana for people with Parkinson’s, there are also some risk factors involved. THC in marijuana can cause:
- impaired thinking and movements
- memory problems
- mood changes
Smoking marijuana may have more side effects than taking it in other forms. Short-term effects are related to the smoke itself and can include lung irritation and coughing. Frequent lung infections are another possibility. Over time, marijuana smoke may lead to heart problems or exacerbate any current heart conditions, although there are no clinical studies that show a direct relationship between marijuana and cardiovascular events.
If you have depression or anxiety, using marijuana has the potential to make your symptoms worse, as some research suggests that people who smoke marijuana are diagnosed with depression more often than those who do not. However, there is no clear evidence that marijuana directly causes depression. Learn more about the effects of marijuana on your body.
Although the FDA has not recognized the marijuana plant as medicine, there are two main cannabinoids from the plant that are used for treatment: cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD contains active ingredients from the Cannabis plant minus the THC, which is the part that makes people “high.” These compounds have the potential to decrease inflammation and reduce pain without the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD can be used to treat a variety of chronic illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease. Cannabidiol also doesn’t carry the risks of traditional marijuana smoke.
CBD may come in the form of:
- food products, such as candies and brownies
In some states, CBD can be purchased over the counter with no prescription or medical marijuana license and is considered legal if it’s produced from industrial hemp. In all states where medical marijuana is legal, CBD is covered under the same legal protections.
In the United States, medical marijuana and CBD laws vary by state. If medical marijuana is legal in your state, you’ll need to ask your doctor to fill out forms for an application to obtain a medical marijuana card. This card identifies you as being able to purchase marijuana in your state for a designated medical condition.
Medical marijuana isn’t legal in all states. It also isn’t legal in all countries. Check your local laws for more information and talk with your doctor. If it isn’t legal where you live, it may become legal in the future.
The primary goals in treating PD are to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment may also prevent disease progression.
If taking marijuana isn’t feasible, there are other options available. Numerous types and combinations of conventional medications may also be used. Examples include:
- amantadine (Symmetrel), which is used in early stages
- carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet)
- catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors
- dopamine agonists
- MAO-B inhibitors, which may help prevent dopamine levels from dropping
Most PD medications focus on motor symptoms. These treatments may not work for other symptoms, called “nonmotor” symptoms. Talk to your doctor about possible options for treating the following nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s:
- bladder problems
- difficulties with concentration and thinking
- loss of libido
- swallowing difficulties
It’s important to note that marijuana can potentially treat both motor and nonmotor PD symptoms.
To prevent Parkinson’s from getting worse, your doctor may recommend a type of surgery called deep brain stimulation. This involves the surgical placement of new electrodes in the brain.
Currently, there’s no cure for PD. Medications can help manage your symptoms. You may also want to explore alternative therapies, including marijuana. Marijuana isn’t a feasible therapy for everyone with Parkinson’s, but if you’re interested in considering this treatment, talk to your doctor to find out if it’s a good option for you.
Can marijuana be used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease?
Man Suffering with Parkinson’s Tries Marijuana For the First Time – What Happens Next Is Astounding
A video series of a man with Parkinson’s disease trying marijuana for the first time – which seemingly alleviates all of his symptoms – has gone viral.
Larry Smith, who previously served 26 years in law enforcement, has been battling Parkinson’s for 20 years. As Larry’s disease progressed and worsened over the years, he explored every possible avenue to try and ease his symptoms.
As one of his last resorts, Larry and his wife Elizabeth travelled to San Diego to try medical marijuana for the first time as cannabis is not legal in their home state.
Larry’s symptoms are very pronounced: he has trouble walking, he has difficulty speaking and is in obvious pain as he tries to control his severe shaking.
After placing only one drop of cannabis oil under his tongue, what happens next is truly incredible and could pave the way for a possible cure for the debilitating disease in the future.
Within just a few minutes, Larry’s body completely relaxes. His shaking stop, he can speak normally and is completely alleviated of pain.
Here’s the full video. To see Larry try the cannabis oil, skip to 5:23.
The video, which at time of writing his been viewed over 40 million times, is testament to the fact many people are getting on the medicinal marijuana bandwagon and the possible benefits it has for treating not only Parkinson’s, but other debilitating, difficult to treat conditions.
“A person like me could really use marijuana,” said Larry, “and it makes me pretty angry that I can’t get it in my home state.
Dr. Daniele Piomelli, pharmacology professor at UC Irvine medical school, is behind the push to legalise medicinal marijuana.
“The number one frustration that I have is knowing that there is this untapped potential – that comes from what marijuana is teaching us – to generate new medicines, and being stuck because of financial issues or political issues. That is extremely frustrating,” Piomelli said.
The reason behind the opposition to marijuana? You guessed it: money. There is little to no money to be made on a plant that is so cheap and easy to grow.
“Pharmaceutical companies have no interest in marijuana because they cannot sell it,” said Dr. Piomelli.
As the research continues and the war for the legalisation of medical marijuana wages on, this video can only be seen as a ray of hope for the future.
This is absolutely incredible