Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Medical Marijuana
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease involving the gradual destruction of cells that produce dopamine in the substantia nigra (SN), an area of the brain involved in regulating movement. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals to other parts of the brain that control and coordinate muscles. As the amount of dopamine decreases, the patient becomes less and less able to regulate movements and emotions.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological illness in the US, affecting about one million people.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. Age is a factor, because most people develop the disease when they are 60 or older. It is thought that exposure to environmental toxins might trigger the disease. Heredity sometimes plays a role.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, include loss of sense of smell, sleep disorders and constipation. After several years, when 60 to 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. They typically affect one side of the body first, and stay worst on that side.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- Muscle stiffness and rigidity
- Sleep disturbances
- Impaired posture and balance
- Loss of automatic movements such as blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk
- Slurred, soft, hesitant, or rapid speech
- Difficulty writing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Constipation and bladder problems
Associated symptoms include pain, emotional ups and downs, and depression.
What is the treatment for Parkinson’s disease?
Symptoms vary from person to person, and the progression of the diseases is slow. There is currently no cure for PD, but the symptoms can be alleviated with treatment, including medications and physiotherapy. Drugs used to treat Parkinson’s regulate motor symptoms by compensating for the reduction in dopamine in the brain, but have undesirable side effects.
How does medical marijuana help Parkinson’s disease?
Medical researchers became interested in how cannabis affects Parkinson’s after people with PD reported that marijuana reduced their tremors. No large-scale scientific trials have been done, but a number of studies on small groups found positive results. Many people reported improvement of their motor symptoms, as well as an enhanced sense of wellbeing. Researchers believe the cannabinoid compounds in marijuana bind to dopamine receptors to reduce the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain.
Medical marijuana helps manage associated symptoms, including pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
A laboratory study on Parkinson’s cells suggests that cannabis might be neuroprotective, saving neurons from damage caused by Parkinson’s.
Each person responds differently to medical marijuana, and the dosage and type of marijuana must be carefully monitored. Make an appointment with Green Relief in Kissimmee, Florida, to consult a qualified specialist about complementing your Parkinson’s treatment with medical marijuana.
- Marijuana Compounds: A Nonconventional Approach to Parkinson’s Disease Therapy. Mariana Babayeva, Haregewein Assefa, Paramita Basu, Sanjeda Chumki, and Zvi Loewy. (2016)
- Marijuana and Neurological Disorders. Marijuana As Medicine?: The Science Beyond the Controversy (2000)
- Marijuana: Could it slow Parkinson’s disease progression? Medical News Today. Marie Ellis. December 2016.