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Central Nervous System Disorders – Medical Marijuana Research Overview

The following information is presented for educational purposes only. Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana Inc. and none should be inferred.

Central nervous system disorders are a group of diseases and conditions that affect the health and functioning of the spinal cord and brain. Studies have shown cannabis can limit the progression of many central nervous system disorders and help manage symptoms like pain, seizures and spasms.

Overview of Central Nervous System Disorders

Central nervous system disorders are a broad category of conditions or diseases that affect the spinal cord or brain. There are many different types of central nervous system disorders, some of which include epilepsy, migraine, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome, dystonia, multiple sclerosis, meningitis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and bipolar disorder. While central nervous system disorders can vary greatly from each other, all the disorders cause a loss of sufficient, intact nervous system circuits that orchestrate particular functions.

The damage that leads to or causes central nervous system disorders can include trauma, infections, degeneration, congenital problems, structural defects, tumors, blood flow disruption and autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms associated with central nervous system disorders vary depending on the specific condition, but can include headaches, tingling or loss of feeling, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, loss of sight or double vision, memory loss, impaired mental ability, lack or coordination, tremors and seizures, muscle rigidity, and back pain.

Most central nervous system disorders cannot be cured, but medications, therapy, surgery and other treatment options can help limit their progression and manage associated symptoms.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Central Nervous System Disorders

Studies have shown that cannabis has neuroprotective effects, and in turn supports the health of the brain and spinal cord and helps in the treatment of a variety of central nervous system disorders. The cannabinoids found in cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have shown they effectively protect neurons and astrocytes from damage, modulate inflammatory reaction and assist in neuroregeneration (Lafuente, et al., 2011) (Kubajewska & Constantinescu, 2010) (Croxford, et al., 2008).

CBD and THC activate the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system, which plays a significant regulatory role in health and disease (Pacher, Batkai & Kunos, 2006) (Di Marzo, Bifulco & De Petrocellis, 2004). The upregulation of the endocannabinoid system has shown to reduce the severity of symptoms like neuropathic pain and muscle spasms and slow the progression of central nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and others (Di Marzo, Bifulco & De Petrocellis, 2004) (Pertwee, 2006) (Pacher, Batkai & Kunos, 2006). Studies also show that cannabinoids reduce the debilitating seizures caused by epilepsy and reduce spasms experienced by those with multiple sclerosis, and minimize the neurological damage caused by spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries (Iuvone, et al., 2004) (More & Choi, 2015) (Blair, Deshpande & DeLorenzo, 2015) (Lakhan & Rowland, 2009).

Alzheimer’s Disease

Cannabis slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by slowing the production of beta-amyloid proteins, considered the key contributor to the disease’s progression (Iuvone, et al., 2004). It also protects brain cells from the deleterious effects of amyloid-beta, reduces inflammation, and supports the brain’s repair process by enhancing the birth of new cells (Campbell & Gowran, 2007).

Dystonia

Cannabis reduces the involuntary muscle contractions associated with dystonia (Consroe, Sandyk & Snider, 1986).

Epilepsy

CBD has been shown to effectively and significantly decrease the frequency of seizures and in some cases has even shown to produce complete seizure freedom (Blair, Deshpande & DeLorenzo, 2015).

Fibromyalgia

Studies have found that cannabis is effective at improving sleep disruption, pain, depression, joint stiffness, anxiety, physical function and quality of life in individuals with fibromyalgia (de Souza Nascimento, et al., 2013) (Russo, 2004).

Lupus

Cannabis reduces inflammation, thus potentially offering therapeutic benefit to those with lupus, and can reduce pain associated with the disorder (Nagarkatti, et al., 2009) (Clayton, Marshall, Bountra & O’Shaughnessy, 2002).

Migraines

Through activation of the cannabinoid receptors, cannabis inhibits the pain response caused by migraines (Akerman, Holland, Lasalandra & Goardsby, 2013) (Baron, 2015) (Greco, et al., 2014).

Multiple Sclerosis

Cannabis reduces pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis and helps slow the disease’s progression (Lakhan & Rowland, 2009) (Pacher, Batkai & Kunos, 2006). One animal study found that cannabinoids reduced damage to myelin caused from inflammation, thereby providing neuroprotection (Pryce, et al., 2003).

Parkinson’s Disease

Cannabis’ neuroprotective effects and ability to encourage cell health reduces the progression of Parkinson’s disease (More & Choi, 2015). It has also shown to help manage the tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, motor disability and impairments, sleep problems and pain associated with the disorder (Lotan, Treves, Roditi & Djaldetti, 2014).

Tourette Syndrome

Cannabis safely reduces the frequency of tics caused by Tourette syndrome (Muller-Vahl, 2013).

States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Central Nervous System Disorders

No states include central nervous system disorders on their list of approved conditions for medical marijuana. However, many do allow medical marijuana for the treatment of specific central nervous system disorders.

For example, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have approved medical marijuana for the treatment of either epilepsy or seizure disorders. California and Illinois have specifically approved medical marijuana for the treatment of migraines. Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island have approved medical marijuana for Alzheimer’s disease. Arkansas, Illinois and North Dakota have approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Illinois and New Mexico has approved medical marijuana for the treatment of dystonia. Illinois and New Hampshire have approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of lupus. Arkansas, Illinois and Minnesota have approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of Tourette syndrome. Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and West Virginia have approved medical marijuana for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, and West Virginia allow medical marijuana for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

In addition, in Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment. Plus, various other states will consider allowing medical marijuana to be used for the treatment of central nervous system disorders with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).

Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on Central Nervous System Disorders

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  • December 8, 2015
  • Eve Ripley