Whether you have Parkinson’s disease (PD) or you’re watching one of your loved ones live with it, it’s a terrible place to be. Doctors tell us the neurodegenerative disorder impairs dopamine-producing neurons. These neurons are predominantly located in the brain and, if impaired, the result is a ‘ripple effect’ throughout the body. For those living with PD, coping with difficult symptoms is exceptionally challenging. Many people with PD may experience:
- Tremors in the hands are common, but other tremors are possible
- Limb rigidity
- Balance problems
- Non-motor symptoms are also serious, including depression, constipation, inability to sleep, loss of smell, or cognitive impairment
Not an easy path
While it’s possible to have a good quality of life with Parkinson’s, it’s by no means an easy path. And, for some, it can lead to severe and painful symptoms and dangerous complications. Working with your doctor and following recommended therapies such as using dopaminergic medication is essential in successfully treating symptoms. Many patients and loved ones also want to know, ‘are they any other non-traditional treatment options?’ There may be, thanks to medical marijuana (MM).
If you’re considering medical marijuana, the first step is to talk with your doctor to weigh any risks and potential benefits, just as you would with any therapy. Let’s review what we know about MM and Parkinson’s and where additional research is needed.
How may cannabinoids help?
Knowing how medical marijuana may help Parkinson’s patients cope with painful symptoms requires understanding the basics of cannabis. Two of the most well-known compounds found in the cannabis plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, better known as CBD. Research into these cannabinoids continues to be a top priority for scientists. However, doctors already know that our bodies make natural cannabinoids that control several functions throughout the body. Functions impacted by cannabinoids include sleep, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory, and other processes. So how can cannabinoids found in marijuana help people with Parkinson’s?
Cannabinoids are believed to stimulate our production of natural cannabinoids and bind to specific receptors. For Parkinson’s patients, this is good news! That’s because there’s a high volume of these receptors in a circuit of brain cells that controls movement. Thus, it’s thought that marijuana may modify Parkinson’s course or, in many cases, help ease painful symptoms.
What does the research say?
Many hypothesize THC and CBD may help treat symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, insomnia, dystonia, pain, or weight loss. Some scientists also suspect that cannabinoids’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may benefit patients by protecting brain cells, but more research is needed. Small clinical studies show that medical marijuana and CBD may improve the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients, but not necessarily improve motor system functions. Another small observation-level study showed some individuals that smoked certified cannabis saw a decrease in tremors.
Is MM for you?
Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana-based products for specific medical purposes. In Ohio, our Medical Marijuana Control Program has approved 23 conditions – including Parkinson’s – as ‘qualifying conditions’ for treatment with cannabis. To obtain a medical marijuana card, patients need to schedule an appointment with a certified physician. Once approved, patients register with the state and receive their official medical marijuana card to purchase certified cannabis.
At Releaf Health Clinic, our team of doctors believes that standardized medicine, along with cannabis medicine, may potentially help Parkinson’s patients enjoy a much higher quality of life. If you’re interested in learning more, call or email us. We offer video-appointments – also called our telemedicine program – to connect patients with certified doctors. Don’t wait! Please get in touch.