As is the case with many degenerative conditions, the medical community knows relatively little about how Parkinson’s Disease (PD) begins in the brain and how its effects might be reversed. PD affects the nervous system, leading to symptoms like muscle tremors, stiffness, and slowness. While there are many medications and approaches to treatment for the condition, Parkinson’s has so many symptoms and side effects that it is difficult to prescribe treatment that can reliably aid with them all.
The growing acceptance of medical marijuana offers people who suffer from PD hope for more comprehensive treatment of their symptoms. Further research is needed to understand the relationship between cannabis and Parkinson’s, but anecdotal evidence suggests the drug could be helpful in reducing tremors among PD patients, as well as alleviating symptoms like anxiety and nausea.
Cannabinoids and Parkinson’s
The brain produces natural cannabinoids that play a huge role in determining when we eat, when we sleep, and even how we feel by binding to receptors throughout the body. One place in which these receptors are highly concentrated in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is believed to be impacted considerably by Parkinson’s. Some researchers believe that the cannabinoids in marijuana may be able to act as a neuroprotective agent, saving areas like the basal ganglia from the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s.
Preclinical findings on the ability of cannabinoids to treat dyskinesia (muscle tremors) and bradykinesia (slowness) have been promising. Some studies reveal that medical cannabis successfully reduced both tremors and slowness in Parkinson’s sufferers. Another discovered that CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, was successful in improving PD patients’ quality of life, but not their motor symptoms. Still, other research has found success in treating non-motor symptoms like REM sleep behavior disorder and Parkinson’s-induced psychosis using medical marijuana.
Why Findings Are Inconclusive for Parkinson’s and Cannabis
However, people have good reason to be optimistic about these results, relatively little research on medical marijuana has been conducted up until this point, and of what little research does exist, some of it uses questionable methodology. Because marijuana has not been federally legalized, rigorous clinical trials with controllable strains and dosages are hard to come by.
But as the stigma surrounding medical marijuana fades away, along with many popular misconceptions about this potentially powerful medication, we can expect to see many more studies released. This could have exciting implications for PD sufferers in places across the country where medical cannabis is being legalized, who could begin to treat many of the myriad and complex symptoms of their conditions that are otherwise difficult to medicate.
Much remains to be learned about the ability of cannabis to protect neurons from the impact of Parkinson’s, but there’s a good reason to believe that the drug could represent a breakthrough for many people suffering from the condition. If you’re interested in seeking treatment for your PD, consider reaching out to Lakewood Medical Clinic for a medical consultation. We can help you decide whether medical marijuana should be a path to treatment you should pursue and determine your next steps towards alleviating your symptoms.