With over half of the U.S. and D.C. allowing medical marijuana – and most of those states listing Parkinson’s Disease or “other debilitating conditions” as a qualifying condition – it’s no wonder more people want to know how medical marijuana can help patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s is a nervous system disorder that progressively gets worse over time, with symptoms starting slow and eventually becoming impossible to ignore if left untreated. Tremors are the most commonly known symptom of the disease, but other symptoms include stiffness, slowing of movement, an inability to show facial expressions, soft or slurred speech and more.
There are many things that go into treating the disease – and roughly 95 percent of neurologists reported that patients have asked them to prescribe or recommend medical marijuana. 80 percent of those patients have already used cannabis, while only 10 percent of physicians have recommended medical marijuana for Parkinson’s disease.
Studies Specific to Parkinson’s Disease
When it comes to evidence that it is beneficial to these patients, the research is limited when it comes to the specific symptoms of the disease like tremors. Small scale studies have been conducted on both THC and CBD as well as whole plant cannabis. All have shown reason to believe that cannabis is useful in limiting symptoms like rigidity, tremors and other motor-control problems.
One study with 22 patients found that THC was beneficial not only at helping in the previously mentioned areas (tremors, stiffness, etc.) but also with symptoms that come from living with the disease including chronic pain and depression.
Another small study with 21 patients looked specifically at CBD, giving patients either a placebo, 75mg or 300mg per day. This study found that CBD made a significant improvement for the patient’s motor quality as well as improving their sleep – with losing sleep being an area many Parkinson’s patient suffer from.
Fighting Pain and Stiffness without Pharmaceuticals
Some of the common problems that patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from besides tremors are stiffness and pain. Most of the time, doctors turn to prescribing opioids to help with the main and muscle relaxers to help with the stiffness and rigidity. Unfortunately, those medications have many side effects and can quickly become addictive, causing withdraw symptoms if the patient wishes to stop taking it.
Instead, many patients with Parkinson’s have turned to medical marijuana to treat their pain and stiffness without need for pharmaceutical medicines. Interestingly, “Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly” is a study that involved 2,736 patients aged 65 and older, who had used medical marijuana. Of those nearly 3,000 people, 18.1 percent reported having reduced or entirely discontinued their use of opioid pain medications after six months and reported no negative effects.
Increasing Appetite and Stabilize Anxiety and Depression
Mood disorders are common in patients with a condition as devastating on the body as Parkinson’s can be. Anxiety and depression are common, especially as the condition progresses and the body’s responses become slower and more difficult. Many patients get depressed to the point of not wanting to eat – while others simply don’t seem to register their own hunger anymore and don’t even realize until they drop dangerous amounts of weight.
Some patients use medical marijuana to help stabilize their mood – avoiding mood swings based in frustration and doing what they can to remain calm and relaxed. It doesn’t hurt that many strains of cannabis are known to cause “the munchies” – stimulating appetite and helping those who don’t feel hungry to eat a full meal for a change.
While the research remains limited when it comes to treating the main symptoms of Parkinson’s – like tremors and loss of motor-control – it is clear there is potential for these patients to benefit from medical marijuana
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