Medical marijuana has developed into an alternate therapy option during the last 20 years…
Medicinal research in this field is far from finished, but there have been a lot of encouraging results, both inside and outside of the lab, which may be precursors to medicines based on medical cannabis in the future. Recently, research on medicinal cannabis treatments for Parkinson’s disease has risen to the top of the medical agenda.
Parkinson’s disease: what is it?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain ailment that develops when the nerve cells in the human brain slowly generate less dopamine. Dopamine is the brain neurotransmitter that enables smooth and well-coordinated physical motions.
It can be challenging to detect the condition in its early stages because it gradually worsens a person’s motions and has no scientific test for it. Most cases can be identified through a careful review of a patient’s medical history and numerous neurological tests. Parkinson’s disease is typically diagnosed in patients over the age of 60; it does not typically affect younger patients. A patient’s condition must impact 60–80% of their nerve cells for the symptoms to be apparent. Parkinson’s disease has early warning signals, such as:
shaking or trembling
a diminished sense of smell
problems with walking or moving
Low or soft voice
There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, but its complications can be fatal. Once the condition has been identified, the aim of treatment is to ensure the highest quality of life.
What are Parkinson’s Disease’s Symptoms?
Parkinson’s disease has four primary stages, each of which has its unique set of symptoms. Mild symptoms that don’t interfere with patients’ regular, everyday activities are present in stage one; tremor and other movement symptoms only affect one side of the body. Friends and family may start to notice changes in your walking gait and facial expressions at this point.
In stage two, walking and posture problems are evident, and tremors and rigidity may manifest on both sides of the body. Even if routine tasks could get harder or take longer, the patient should still be able to take care of themselves. Loss of balance, slower movements, and maybe frequent falls are common in stage three. Although dressing and eating may become more and more challenging at this point, independence is still achievable.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms may require a walker and assistance with daily duties in stage four, which typically results in a loss of independence. Now, assistance from family, friends, or a nurse who either makes daily visits or resides with the patient may be needed. In stage five, leg stiffness may make it difficult for the patient to walk, necessitating round-the-clock nursing care. The following non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are also typical, especially in stage five, despite the fact that the majority of symptoms are frequently linked to physical problems:
both anxiety and depression
problems with memory, planning, slow cognition, and concentrated attention
Hallucinations, delusions, or dementia
Having no appetite
Pain and exhaustion
Gain or loss of weight
Impulsive control problems
What Parkinson’s Disease Medical Treatments Are Available?
Deep brain stimulation (DBS), surgery, and a number of prescribed drugs—the most popular of which are carbidopa/levodopa, Sinemet, Azilect, Mirapex, ropinirole, and Requip—have all been found to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. DBS stops tremors and other Parkinson’s disease symptoms by surgically implanting electrodes in the brain that block electrical pulses from nerve cells that cause unintentional movements.
Prior to surgery, a doctor may utilize computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to pinpoint the regions of the brain causing the undesired movements. A neurostimulator (about the size of a timer or cardiac pacemaker) is surgically inserted during DBS to administer electrical stimulation to specific brain regions. The thalamus, subthalamic nucleus, and globus pallidus are frequently involved in DBS. DBS is an invasive surgery that is only used on individuals who have not responded to other drugs or treatments. Such a surgery might be avoided with medical cannabis, giving Parkinson’s patients a choice they could use in the comfort of their own homes.
How Can Patients with Parkinson’s Disease Benefit from Medical Cannabis?
The National Parkinson’s Foundation recognises the medical cannabis research being done for Parkinson’s disease patients and notes that there are some anecdotal reports that Parkinson’s patients have lessened tremors. A three-part documentary titled “Ride with Larry” follows Larry, a man with severe Parkinson’s disease who decided to use medical cannabis to treat his tremors and other symptoms. Medical cannabis impacts the brain and can reduce tremors in some people because it can interact with neurological cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2).
CB1 receptors are generally lower in Parkinson’s disease patients than in Parkinson’s disease-free individuals; increasing CB1 receptors with medical cannabis appears to diminish dyskinesia and tremors. National and international legislation governing the use of medical cannabis, as well as the challenge of performing a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with medicinal cannabis, have affected and continue to affect the difficulties of conducting medical cannabis trials for Parkinson’s disease. However, some patients have put videos of the medication in action on places like YouTube and are certain that it relieves their tremors. Nabilone, a cannabinoid receptor agonist, dramatically decreased dyskinesia in seven Parkinson’s patients during a pilot study. Other trials have produced various findings, including advantages for tic disorders but none for dyskinesia.
A more recent study from Europe found that certain Parkinson’s patients benefit from medicinal cannabis therapies in terms of both pain alleviation and enhanced motor function. Patients with Parkinson’s disease who are not responding to medications or DBS have the option of discussing this form of treatment with their doctors or healthcare providers in regions of the world where medical cannabis is legal, but more clinical trials are required to find conclusive results for this treatment.