Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder in which sufferers lose most control of their motor skills. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, more than 10 million people across the globe are affected by Parkinson’s. We’ll give you the rundown on the disease, how it’s typically treated, and the shocking effectiveness of cannabis on those who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s Disease Explained
Parkinson’s is an incurable disease which affects the central nervous system. The disorder causes cell death in a part of the brain that is responsible for motor control. As a result, movement becomes slow and rigid, and sufferers experience tremor and instability. This frequently results in an increase in falls, which are a source of danger for sufferers of the disease.
While the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, experts believe that a combination of genetics and environment play a role in its development. For example, those with a family member with Parkinson’s Disease are more likely to have the disease themselves. Additionally, those who are in contact with certain pesticides, and those who have suffered head injuries, are also at increased risk.
Along with less motor control, Parkinson’s Disease can also manifest neurological symptoms. These may include:
Because Parkinson’s Disease is incurable, treatment revolves around managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s to make life as normal as possible for sufferers. The ways in which this is achieved are varied. Levodopa is a medication commonly used to alleviate motor symptoms of Parkinson’s but comes with numerous serious side effects, including nausea, tics, joint stiffness, and “punding” (compulsive infatuation with repetitive tasks).
Brain surgery is another option, though less used, in treating Parkinson’s. It involves stimulating the brain with surgical devices to improve symptoms. Unsurprisingly, brain surgery is avoided unless necessary due to the risks associated with the procedure.
Lastly, exercise is seen as particularly important for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease, as there is some evidence that it can improve the symptoms of the disease. Regardless, the serious risks of both standard medication and brain surgery mean finding a safer alternative is imperative for people who have Parkinson’s Disease.
Cannabis Relieves Symptoms and Treats Parkinson’s Disease
One study conducted a survey on sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease. They found that many of the subjects found relief from general Parkinson’s symptoms, improvement of tremors, reduction in slow movement, reduction in muscle rigidity, and fewer involuntary movements. Of note, fewer than 5% questioned felt that cannabis worsened their symptoms! This survey suggests that while cannabis may not alleviate all sufferers’ symptoms, it shows promise for the majority in treating their disease.
Researchers examining cannabinoids and their effects found that the chemicals in cannabis have neuroprotective qualities, particularly of a specific set of neurons in the brain. They note that this protective benefit may be relevant in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease specifically. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, being able to protect those neurons that the disease affects is of obvious benefit.
Another study conducted in 2014 showed even more startlingly positive results. Subjects with Parkinson’s were given cannabis to treat their symptoms. They found that motor function, reduction in tremors, and reduction in rigidity improved significantly. Additionally, quality of sleep was improved, as well as a reduction in Parkinson’s-related pain. While they note that larger studies ought to be conducted, this shows that most symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are alleviated by cannabis.
Looking Toward the Future
Cannabis as both a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and for a treatment of the disease itself shows great promise. Researchers agree that more testing ought to be done for cannabis and its therapeutic benefit for Parkinson’s Disease. As it stands now, the results of further studies may very well set cannabis-based medication as a staple in treating the disease.