Why Are Doctors Treating Parkinson’s Patients with Medical Cannabis
Over the last decade, medical professionals have been researching the benefits and positive effects cannabis may have on certain health conditions and diseases. At this time, Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease just after Alzheimer’s disease, hasn’t been assigned a definitive cure.
There have been several studies that suggest there are treatments that may alleviate its symptoms, and medical cannabis is included in them. Let’s find out why doctors are treating PD patients with medical cannabis.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system that mainly affects different areas of the brain that are responsible for controlling movement. It is characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantial Nitra, which are the neurons that are in charge of the production and distribution of dopamine.
Depletion of dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters that’s required for signals to travel properly throughout the brain, alters signaling from the basal ganglia, the area in charge of controlling movement. This then result in Parkinson’s patient’s primarily experiencing loss of control of voluntary movements, which manifests various motor symptoms such as stiffness, tremor, and bradykinesia. Other non-motor symptoms that appear in later stages of PD include sensory, sleep and emotional issues, such as depression and anxiety, as well as psychosis, cognitive impairment and even dementia in the deeper stages of the disease.
Current treatment options include using levodopa, a biosynthetic precursor of dopamine, to compensate dopamine depletion, but it has been ruled to be effective only in early and intermediate stages of PD and can also cause irreversible dyskinesia in later stages.
The Science of Medical Cannabis
Let’s understand the science behind medical cannabis.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a biological system we have that plays a crucial role in keeping the homeostasis of our bodies. It helps regulate many of our bodily functions, such as our appetite, digestion, inflammation, mood, sleep, motor control and pain alleviation.
This system is a natural and crucial part of the daily regulation of our bodies, and it is in charge of monitoring any disbalance going on in our bodies. In order to successfully maintain homeostasis, the ECS works with endocannabinoids, receptors placed around our nervous system in our entire body (that endocannabinoids and cannabinoids bond with), and enzymes that break down said molecules in order to obtain necessary results.
Thanks to our body chemistry, medical cannabis can be used to treat symptoms of different diseases due to how certain cannabinoids in its chemistry – primarily THC and CBD – have a natural compatibility with our ECS and can aid it in fulfilling certain functions in the body.
The cannabis species that is used to obtain medical concentrates is cannabis sativa. Out of the 300+ cannabinoids that make up the plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as mentioned, are the primary compounds scientists work with in the medical field. They both serve different purposes. TCH, the psychoactive one of the two, can help treat nausea, pain or muscle spasms, but it also can affect mood, behavior and thinking. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and offers a different range of benefits, including hypnotic, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective effects.
Common applications of medical cannabis are through supplements, concentrated drops or inhalation. These contain different blends of THC and CBD concentrates, each specifically measured to offer specific benefits.
Medical Cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease
How they interact
Cons (side effects and dependency)
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and medical intervention is limited to treating the symptoms it manifests. Due to this, medical professionals have been delving into researching treatment options medical cannabis offers, and they’ve found out that it mostly helps alleviate secondary symptoms more than treating PD itself. Among the research that has been done, there has been insufficient evidence that points towards treating Parkinson’s.
More research needs to be done, but based on what is known about the biology of cannabis, we can hypothesize that THC and CBD may be helpful for some aspects of PD such as tremor, stiffness, insomnia, dystonia, pain, dyskinesias or weight loss. Furthermore, some people with PD have reported a “calming effect” on their tremor and dyskinesia with the use of marijuana,
There is not enough research, yet, to support the use of medical marijuana as a valid treatment for PD. Previous observational studies have confirmed that medical cannabis can potentially help some non-motor Parkinson’s symptoms, such as pain, sleep problems, anxiety, nausea and weight-loss. While some results have been positive, the effects of medical cannabis are still not completely understood, which is why more studies are needed.
But medical cannabis does not come without adverse effects. Marihuana consumption commonly comes with sleepiness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, mood changes and gait imbalance. Some of these effects take some time to get used to, but they usually go away as a patient consumes the treatment.
Medical Cannabis with secondary symptoms
Consult your physicist
The research of the way medical cannabis can help treat Parkinson’s disease, or it’s secondary symptoms, still has a way to go. Even with several clinical trials, medical experts still agree that there is more research needed in order to have a definite answer. For now, it seems medical marihuana works with specific symptoms that come with PD, so it’s important that patients discuss with their physicians if it’s the right treatment for them, making sure it won’t interact with any other medications they might be consuming. The patient, together with their medical expert, should be on the lookout for results that any new medical trials can confirm that point towards a deeper understanding of medical cannabis and PD. Patient, together with their medical expert, should be on the lookout for results that any new medical trials can confirm that point towards a deeper understanding of medical cannabis and PD.