Inhaling cannabis (medical marijuana) provides symptomatic relief in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to observational trial data published in the March/April edition of the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology. This new study shows tremor, rigidity, sleep and pain improvements in patients using medical marijuana.

Researchers at the Tel-Aviv University, Department of Neurology gathered 22 volunteers for this study, all of which were suffering from Parkinson’s. They evaluated their symptoms to establish a baseline, and then again evaluated them 30 minutes after inhaling cannabis. Israel has formally allowed the licensed production and distribution of marijuana for therapeutic purposes since 2011.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, with symptoms including shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, thinking and behavioral problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease, whereas depression is the most common psychiatric symptom. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems.

In this study, scientists reported that after smoking cannabis, patients showed “significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinsea (slowness of movement). There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores. No significant adverse effects of the drug were observed.”

They also concluded:

“[T]his observational study is the first to report an amelioration of both motor and non–motor symptoms in patients with PD treated with cannabis. The study opens new venues for treatment strategies in PD especially in patients refractory to current medications.”

There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores, and there were no side effects to the drug. The study clearly suggests that at the very least, more studies should be conducted to verify the viability of cannabis as a treatment in Parkinson’s disease.

Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks cannabis has miraculous effects and that’s why it’s banned, that it’s a panacea for everything, from depression to cancer. I find this increasing trend disturbing and highly non-scientific. However, I am one to support the legalization of cannabis – starting from therapeutic purposes and even moving on to recreational. The use of cannabis as a therapeutic agent for various medical conditions has been well documented, and while it’s still in the trial phases, there are some clear indications that it has valid medical benefits. Here’s how an illegal drug is defined, at least in the United States:

 

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Point 2 is clearly out of the question, point 3 is also not true (effects are on a similar scale to alcohol), and point 1 is highly debatable. So at the very least, we should be using marijuana for medicinal purposes – it’s clear that it can help in some places.

Journal Reference: Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease: an open-label observational study. Lotan I, Treves TA, Roditi Y, Djaldetti R.

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