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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects nearly 1 million people in the U.S. Studies have shown cannabis can slow the disease’s progression and help patients manage the symptoms associated with the disease.
Overview of Parkinson’s Disease
Research suggests that cannabis could be beneficial for managing symptoms and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive disorder of the nervous system. Affecting more than 10 million people worldwide, Parkinson’s disease (PD) causes the malfunction and eventual death of cells in the brain.
PD mainly affects dopamine-producing neurons that control movement. As neurons die and the amount of dopamine in the brain decreases, movement and coordination are subsequently affected.
Symptoms commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease include tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity (stiffness), and postural instability. The disease also often leads to depression, cognitive problems, sleeping difficulties, fatigue, swallowing problems, and pain. Sometimes psychosis, a severe impairment in thinking and emotion that causes one to lose contact with reality, also occurs.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Today, treatment efforts focus on helping control symptoms. Medications can increase the release, or mimic the action, of dopamine to help manage movement, tremor and walking problems. In some cases, surgery may be required to regulate certain regions of the brain.
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Cannabis’ Potential in the Global Parkinson’s Disease Market
Is Cannabis Beneficial for Parkinson’s Disease
Evidence suggests that cannabis could be beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease by inhibiting its progression and managing its associated symptoms. Studies have found the cannabinoids possess neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the health of brain cells14. These neuroprotective effects are shown in the form of excitotoxicity suppression, glial activation, and a reduction in oxidative injury — all of which are processes responsible for the degeneration of dopamine-releasing neurons7,9,12. Studies also indicate that cannabinoids improve the function of cell’s mitochondria and activation of cellular debris clearance, which further promotes the health and viability of neurons21. These neuroprotective effects have been found in the two most abundant cannabinoids — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the well-known psychoactive compound, and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound4,5,21.
Research also shows that cannabis is potentially beneficial for helping patients with PD manage their symptoms. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, to modulate the release of dopamine18. Significant improvements in well-being and quality of life scores were found in PD patients after they were given daily doses of CBD for one week2.
In another study, smoking cannabis significantly improved tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, motor impairments, sleep, and pain in PD patients10. Additional studies have confirmed cannabis’ ability to reduce bradykinesia and tremors7,9. Most recently, a clinical trial found that cannabis significantly reduced pain and motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients after 30 minutes15.
Survey findings suggest that PD patients prefer cannabis to other types of treatment modalities. A questionnaire survey of 339 PD patients found that 45.9 percent of PD patients that had taken cannabis reported some type of benefit19. In another, despite only 4.3 percent of PD patients responding that they used cannabis, it ranked as the most effective of all treatment options out of vitamins, prayer, massage, art therapy, music therapy, and relaxation for symptom relief6.
Studies also suggest that CBD can help with PD patients experiencing psychosis. Four weeks of CBD caused PD patients with psychosis to experience a significant decrease in psychotic symptoms as evaluated by the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Parkinson Psychosis Questionnaire22.
Latest Findings and Research
CBD Improves Quality of Life Measures in Parkinson’s Disease Patients, Trial Finds (August 11, 2017)
Evidence Shows CBD Beneficial for Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis (August 4, 2017)
Cannabinoids Stimulate Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects That Are Beneficial for Treating Parkinson’s Disease, Study Finds (August 1, 2017)
Study: Cannabis Encourages Mitochondrial Function to Inhibit Parkinson’s Disease (July 24, 2017)
Parkinson’s Disease Patients Find Cannabis Among Most Beneficial of All Alternative Treatments, Study Finds (July 19, 2017)
Review Finds Evidence of Cannabis Being Effective for Treating Parkinson’s Disease (July 17, 2017)
- Babayeva, M., Assefa, H., Basu, P., Chumki, S., and Loewy, Z. (2016). Marijuana compounds: A nonconventional approach to Parkinson’s disease therapy. Parkinson’s Disease, 2016, 1279042. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/pd/2016/1279042/.
- Chagas, M.H., Eckeli, A.L., Zuardi, A.W., Pena-Pereira, M.A., Sobreira-Neto, M.A., Sobreira, E.T., Camilo, M.R., Bergamaschi, M.M., Schenck, C.H., Hallack, J.E., Tumas, V., and Crippa, J.A. (2014, October). Cannabidiol can improve complex sleep-related behaviours associated with rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder in Parkinson’s disease patients: a case serious. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(5), 564-6. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/jcpt.12179/full.
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- Shohet, A., Khlebtovsky, A., Roizen, N., Roditi, Y., and Djaldetti, R. (2016, October 10). Effect of medical cannabis on thermal quantitative measurements of pain in patients with Parkinson’s disease. European Journal of Pain, doi: 10.1002/ejp.942 [Epub ahead of print]. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejp.942/full.
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