People with Parkinson’s disease have reported that medical marijuana improved their motor symptoms, reduced tremors, and enhanced their sense of well-being. Medical marijuana also helps to relieve anxiety, alleviate pain, and regulate sleep disorders.
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects about one million Americans, making it the second most common neurological disease in the U.S.
The area of the brain that regulates movement, called the substantia nigra (SN), has a concentration of cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter, carrying signals to other parts of the brain to control movement. In Parkinson’s disease, these cells degenerate and produce less and less dopamine. When between 60% and 80% of these cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s appear, and the patient is increasingly unable to regulate movements and emotions.
Experts do not know what causes Parkinson’s. Most people do not develop the disease until they are 60 or older. It is possible that exposure to environmental toxins might be responsible, and some cases are hereditary.
SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE
Early indications of Parkinson’s disease include loss of sense of smell, sleep disorders and constipation. The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease typically affect one side of the body first, and stay worst on that side.
SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE INCLUDE:
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- Muscle stiffness and rigidity
- Sleep disturbances
- Impaired posture and balance
- Loss of automatic movements such as blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk
- Slurred, soft, hesitant, or rapid speech
- Difficulty writing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Constipation and bladder problems
- Emotional swings and depression
HOW MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELPS WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE
The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are typically treated with physical therapy and with medications that attempt to replace dopamine. These medications have unpleasant side effects, including uncontrolled involuntary movements (dyskinesia). Medical marijuana offers a different approach to treatment. Recent research suggests that the endocannabinoid system is significantly involved in Parkinson’s disease. It appears that the cannabinoid compounds in marijuana bind to dopamine receptors to reduce the effects of lessening dopamine in the brain.
PD patients who use medical marijuana report that they have better control over their movements, and their tremors are reduced. Medical marijuana also increases their sense of well-being and helps alleviate pain and stiffness.