Medicinal cannabis and Parkinson’s disease
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There is growing evidence for the use of medical cannabis in a number of neurological conditions, Parkinson’s disease is one of them. Parkinson’s disease causes changes in the brain that result in symptoms like tremor, pain, cognition and mental health deterioration.
Does medical cannabis reduce Parkinson’s symptoms?
Parkinson’s disease is largely characterised by a difficulty in maintaining fluidity of movement. The two ways this main symptom presents is with hypokinesia or dyskinesia. For those experiencing hypokinesia, movement can slow to the point that patients can have difficulty initiating movement or feel as though their bodies are frozen.
Patients that experience dyskinesia often present with tremor, irregular or clunky movements due to dysfunction in signalling related to motor skills. Dyskinesia can also occur as a side effect of conventional Parkinson’s treatments. While conventional medications have proven to be effective for a large portion of patients, there are others who suffer from aggressive forms of Parkinson’s or don’t tolerate standard pharmaceuticals. In these cases, medicinal cannabis treatments could provide a viable alternative.
Changes to parts of the brain that control movement, as well as the lack of dopamine, can also lead to mood disturbance, muscle rigidity, pain, loss of weight and changes to appetite. Medical cannabis has been well researched in other contexts for its effects on some of the key symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
In cases where pharmaceutical medications fail to reduce symptoms related to movement, mood or other neurological manifestation, medical cannabis may have a profound effect.
Anecdotally, Parkinson’s patients, who are predominantly men, report a sense of calm and relief when taking medical cannabis, especially from the often perpetually experienced tremors and dyskinesia that can wrack the entire body.
How does medical cannabis affect the brain in Parkinson’s Disease?
In Parkinson’s disease, cannabinoids (specifically THC) have been shown to influence the systems responsible for Parkinson’s by contributing to the release of dopamine.
With time the effects of Parkinson’s on neurodegeneration reduce sensory and emotional capacity via the effects of inflammation and oxidation. Medical cannabis has both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions that may have positive effects on brain health and potentially slow the progression of disease in Parkinson’s patients.
Terpenes are another phytochemical present in cannabis and many other plants. Terpenes found in medical cannabis may be beneficial to Parkinson’s disease for their muscle relaxant, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory actions. Terpenes have benefits in their own right but also contribute to the entourage effect, where phytochemicals, major and minor cannabinoids act together to achieve greater therapeutic benefit than they would alone.
Does the endocannabinoid system influence Parkinson’s Disease?
The primary area of the brain that is associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra, contains high concentrations of cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are part of a wider, and lesser-known body system called, the endocannabinoid system.
This system is essential in innumerable processes of the body. In the case of Parkinson’s, by engaging cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system through the use of medical cannabis, patients may find relief from cognitive changes, balance, tremor and pain.
Is CBD prescribed for Parkinson’s disease?
Whether CBD is prescribed to Parkinson’s patients is determined by the medical professional’s assessment and patients needs. Results are still mixed on whether CBD alone has consistent positive effects for Parkinson’s disease, yet so far researcher believe it may help reduce anxiety, tremor and brain inflammation that promotes worsening of the disease.
Other ways medicinal cannabis treatments help Parkinson’s patients
Medical cannabis treatments like CBD or products combining THC and CBD have been shown to relieve insomnia, anxiety and depressive symptoms in human and animal trials. Anxiety can appear with Parkinson’s disease as a result of the disease itself, or due to the physical and mental hardship of experiencing a chronic and incurable condition.
Nausea and appetite are two other major concerns for Parkinson’s patients where medical cannabis may provide benefit. By reducing nausea and promoting appetite the negative impact of the disease on quality of life and other fundamental body functions can be reduced.
Lastly, prescribed medical cannabis treatments are becoming increasingly used to treat chronic pain and musculoskeletal issues like muscle rigidity (dystonia) and arthritis.
Parkinson’s patients regularly report chronic pain and muscle spasm which is not only extremely uncomfortable but affects their quality of life. Early research into medical cannabis for Parkinson’s indicates cannabinoid treatments can reduce pain for these patients which can have a further possible benefit to their mobility and mental health.
It is important for each individual patient to be assessed by medical professional like those at CA Clinic’s to ensure that medical cannabis treatments are appropriate for them.