Cannabis May Affect Neurodegenerative Diseases
Maybe you or a loved one has had a family member with a neurodegenerative disease. Watching one’s health deteriorate before your very eyes can be a very painful experience to go through. A few you may have heard of are Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Every 60 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Parkinson's disease often becomes increasingly disabling over time. If you suffer from Parkinson's disease you may have trouble performing daily activities such as rising from a chair or moving across a room. Out of the approximately 400,000 people who live with MS in the US, about 8,000 to 10,000 are children or adolescents. These are just three out of hundreds of different neurodegenerative diseases that affect millions of people across the globe. As research with cannabis becomes more available, it may show promise in helping treat neurodegenerative diseases and their effects.
Cannabinoids have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Because of this, many caregivers and cannabis patients use the plant for treating pain, and the other effects of neurodegenerative diseases. Others speculate that marijuana could aid in preventing, halting, or even reversing debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. Below are some great findings about the interaction of cannabis in regards to treating neurodegenerative diseases from Leafly.
Juan Sanchez-Ramos, MD, PhD, a professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida, is optimistic, noting that early laboratory studies have identified cannabinoids which, by virtue of their neuro-protective and anti-oxidative actions, have the potential to “slow the onset and progression of neurodegenerative conditions.” Sanchez-Ramos cautions we need far more human trials, but the federal government’s long-standing position on cannabis as an illegal Schedule I drug with “no known medical use” has impeded progress of researchers who face unnecessary obstacles to conduct research, a point he argued in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed. The government’s position has “hampered clinical research on cannabis for nearly half a century.”
In August 2015, the American Academy of Neurology published an evidence-based systematic review of randomized controlled trials using cannabis or cannabinoids to treat neurologic disorders. They found several cannabinoids demonstrated “effectiveness” or “probable effectiveness” to alleviate spasticity, painful spasms, and central pain commonly associated with multiple sclerosis. They went so far as stating medical insurance should pay for cannabinoid-derived medications such as dronabinol and nabilone for patients who could benefit.The British Journal of Pharmacology published a review in March 2014 concluding that “modulating the endogenous cannabinoid system is emerging as a potentially viable option in the treatment of neurodegeneration.”
In a 2012 research review, Dr. Andras Bilkei-Gorzo made an observation that almost seems paradoxical: cannabis, which we think of as an impairment to cognitive function, could be the exact opposite of conventional wisdom: “At first sight, it is striking that cannabinoid agonists, substances known to impair cognitive functions, could be beneficial in neurodegenerative cognitive disorders. However, [we found] cannabinoid receptor activation could reduce oxidative stress and excitotoxicity, suppress neuroinflammatory processes and thus alleviate the symptoms of neurodegenerative motor and cognitive diseases.”
As cannabis research develops, we hope to find new and effective ways in helping our loved ones with this beautiful and complex plant. Even the stigma surrounding cannabis can influence someone's decision to not use the plant. However, we at HERB hope to see that change in time, as the benefits of marijuana are too important to pass up in this world of pharmaceutical influence.
Information courtesy of Leafly, Alzheimer's Association, MulitpleSclerosis.net and Medtronic.com.