Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative illness of the nervous system that results in loss of intentional movement and impaired motor functioning. Parkinson’s disease symptoms affects smooth, natural movements of the body, and can make it hard to perform everyday tasks like speaking properly, walking, swallowing and sleeping.
With Parkinson’s, the area of the brain that controls muscular movements receives less dopamine than usual. Dopamine is an important chemical necessary for not only coordinating proper body movements, but also things like learning, increasing motivation and regulating moods. When dopamine cells are damaged, the signs of Parkinson’s Disease begin to show. This is one reason why depression and other mood changes often affect those with Parkinson’s.
As medical cannabis becomes legal in more states in American in in other countries, physicians and researchers are looking more closely at the potential benefits of medical cannabis for Parkinson’s disease.
Unfortunately, many of the conventional medications prescribed for a Parkinson’s patient also come with significant, negative side-effects that are not present in medical marijuana. Medical marijuana offers a combination of anti-anxiety, antioxidant and pain relief all in one medication.
Among the many studies and academic papers relating to the benefits of medical marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease, Sevcik J. and Masek K., of the Institute of Pharmacology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague had this to say: “Cannabinoids might alleviate some parkinsonian symptoms by their remarkable receptor-mediated modulatory action in the basal ganglia output nuclei. Moreover, it was recently observed that some cannabinoids are potent antioxidants that can protect neurons from death even without cannabinoid receptor activation. It seems that cannabinoids could delay or even stop progressive degeneration of brain dopaminergic systems, a process for which there is presently no prevention. In combination with currently used drugs, cannabinoids might represent, qualitatively, a new approach to the treatment of PD, making it more effective.”
A few studies have been conducted on how medical cannabis can help minimize the side-effects caused by certain medications for Parkinson’s disease. One study, from 2001, looked at the role cannabinoids play in reducing dyskinesia caused by levodopa. The results of the study suggested that nabilone, a cannabinoid receptor agonist, could minimize the involuntary movements associated with levodopa use.
Studies have shown cannabis and its established neuroprotective effects to effectively slow the progression of the disorder by suppressing the excitotoxicity, glial activation, and oxidative injury that eventually destroy the dopamine-releasing neurons.
In 2013, an Australian laboratory published a study using the UPDRS (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale), which measures the severity of the disease symptoms. This lab discovered that the cannabinoids in medical marijuana had a positive effect on the tremors, muscle rigidity and akinesia (loss of body movement).
A 2014 observational study took a look at the effect medical marijuana had on both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. The study involved 22 patients who were evaluated using a battery of tests both before and 30 minutes after they smoked medical cannabis. After smoking, a majority of the patients had a significant improvement in their test scores. Additionally, patients reported an improvement in motor symptoms such as bradykinesia, tremors and rigidity.
Researchers reported medical cannabis created “significant” improvement in the symptoms suffered by research subjects including dramatically decreased rigidity, tremors, and pain, and increased ability to properly rest. Patients also reported that the effects lasted for as long as three hours. No adverse effects were reported.