Parkinson’s Disease and Medical Cannabis

Parkinson’s disease, often known as PD or just Parkinson’s, is a degenerative disorder that primarily affects the central nervous system. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are mostly pertaining to the function of the motor system, the part of the central nervous system that involves movement. The prominent symptoms of Parkinson’s include shaking, tremors, moving slower than normal, difficulty walking, difficulty sleeping, and dementia is commonly developed in the later stages of the disease.

The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, however, it’s believed to be caused by various genetic and environmental factors. Those with a previous head injury have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s, while for those who smoke tobacco and drink coffee or tea the risk is reduced. These are just a few of the potential environmental factors that influence your chances of developing the disease.

The onset of the disease more often than not occurs in those over the age of 60. While Parkinson’s is not fatal, it typically decreases life expectancy; with it ranging between 7 and 14 years after the initial diagnosis. Parkinson’s has no cure, treatment typically includes taking antiparkinson medication, and in some cases, surgery to place microelectrodes can be performed to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

So how does medical cannabis fit into all of this? Research shows that THC (one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis) can help in the treatment of Parkinson’s. Some evidence suggests that by activating a receptor in the endocannabinoid system, new mitochondria forms which in turn helps prevent damage caused by free radicals. Cannabidiol (another main cannabinoid found in cannabis) has also shown to improve the health of mitochandria, suggesting the substance could be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkison’s due to its neuroprotective properties. A study conducted in 1998 confirmed that both THC and CBDs are neuroprotective. Acting as antioxidants these compounds can protect neurons from damage as well as revitalize aging and damaged brain cells. This suggests that taking medical cannabis could help slow the progression of Parkinson’s, but it is certainly by no means a cure.

Another aspect in which Cannabis can help manage Parkinson’s is by reducing the severity of various symptoms. One study, published in 2014 shows that smoking medical marijuana can significantly improve overall motor function. In addition to improving motor function, it also helped with tremors, bradykinesia, rigidity, sleep, and pain management. Medical marijuana can also help to improve those living with Parkinson’s quality of life. Anxiety and depression are commonly found in those living with Parkinson’s, it’s estimated that roughly a third of people with Parkinson’s experience these maladies. Medical cannabis has also been shown to greatly alleviate anxiety of all kinds, and although more research needs to be done on the subject; many people claim that cannabis can also be used as an anti-depressent.

In conclusion, medical marijuana can help with most of the severe symptoms associated with Parkinson’s as well as slow the overall progression of the disease. Currently out of the 28 states that have legalized medical cannabis, over 12 of them have approved Parkinson’s disease as one of the qualifying conditions to obtain a medical card.

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