Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that slowly cuts off a person’s ability to produce dopamine. A recent study in Clinical Neuropharmacology found that Parkinson’s patients who smoked marijuana had significantly improved motor skills and less general impairments. Participants in the study found a decrease in tremors, rigidity, and dyskinesia, which is the difficulty performing voluntary movements. In 2014, the Journal of Psychopharmacology released a study where participants took 300 mg of CBD per day. The participants in this study found an increase in well being and quality of life, compared to patients who took a placebo. This study was significant because CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, was able to solely decrease the symptoms of patients. Another study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that THC could prove useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. THC was found to aid in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals and activate a receptor that stimulates new mitochondria formation.
The studies that are currently available in relation to cannabis and Parkinson’s are just scratching the surface of the potential that marijuana has to help improve the lives of Parkinson’s sufferers. The individual symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression, can all be improved by the use of cannabis.
Roughly 85% of people who suffer from Parkinson’s experience a large amount of chronic pain. Pain is often the first symptom that Parkinson’s patients face, sometimes even before they are formally diagnosed. Much of the pain experienced by Parkinson’s sufferers is caused by tissue that has been damaged due to tremors, rigidity, and inflammation. There is an almost 5000 year old recorded history of cannabis being used for chronic pain management. Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, many in areas that are responsible for pain production. Cannabis stimulates these receptors to reduce the sensation of pain, “Medical cannabis is a very effective therapy for chronic pain patients because it affects people’s perception of pain, has the ability to mitigate the inflammatory process, and has been shown to affect voltage-gated sodium channels in nerves in a way similar to lidocaine,” reported Dr. Mark Rabe, the Medical Director of Centric Wellness, to Medical Jane.
Cannabis can also be effective in alleviating anxiety and depression. It is estimated that 40% of patients with Parkinson’s experience substantial anxiety in the form of various anxiety disorders. Depression symptoms are also experienced by around 60% of Parkinson’s patients and can range in their severity. It is suggested that chemical changes in the brain caused by Parkinson’s itself could be responsible for the development of depression. University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions recently found that endocannabinoids may be helpful in treating depression that results from chronic stress. Cannabis could be used to supplement naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the body, helping to relieve depression. Similarly, the endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating anxiety. A study in 2011 showed that when participants with social anxiety disorder were given 600 mg of CBD before an anxiety inducing situation, they experienced a decrease in anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort. Cannabinoids are also neuro-protective agents, meaning that they have a chance to help prevent damage caused by Parkinson’s disease. As with many different conditions, more studies are necessary to provide clinical evidence for the efficacy of medical marijuana and Parkinson’s disease specifically. The individual symptoms of Parkinson’s, however, can be greatly decreased through the use of cannabis. Large amounts of anecdotal evidence also show that cannabis could greatly improve the quality of life of patients with Parkinson’s disease.