ALS and Medical Marijuana
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare, progressive, neurological condition which is ultimately fatal. Motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord degenerate and die. The associated voluntary muscles waste away, resulting in muscle spasms, cramps, rigidity, pain and inflammation, and eventually paralysis.
ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70. The cause is unknown, and may be a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers. There is a family history of ALS in only 10% of cases.
What are the symptoms of ALS?
Common symptoms of ALS are:
- Muscle weakness
- Tripping, dropping things, clumsiness
- Stiff muscles
- Wasting muscles
- Speech impairments
- Periods of laughter or crying
How does medical marijuana help ALS?
Medical marijuana can help manage ALS symptoms and enhance the wellbeing of ALS patients by helping to relieve pain, relax muscles, stimulate appetite, induce sleep, reduce salivation, and improve breathing.
In addition to managing symptoms of ALS, there is scientific evidence that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of the disease. A study done on mice in 2006 found that compounds that connected with a specific cannabinoid receptor (CB2) delayed ALS symptoms.
Studies conducted so far on ALS and medical marijuana have involved only small numbers of patients, and have been largely based on surveys and personal testimonies. Preclinical data indicates that cannabis has powerful anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
- Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials. Carter GT, Abood ME, Aggarwal SK, Weiss MD
- Complementary and Alternative Therapies in ALS, Richard S. Bedlack, MD, PhD, Nanette Joyce, DO, Gregory T. Carter, MD, MS, Sabrina Pagononi, MD, PhD, and Chafic Karam, MD