When most people hear the term “Parkinson’s Disease,” they often associate the condition with actor and activist Michael J. Fox. For over thirty years, Fox has lived with the disease and as part of his activism, has championed for more medical marijuana research. His foundation has expressed continued support for medical marijuana research as an beneficial supplement to a patient’s healthcare regime.
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurologically-based disease with symptoms affecting movement and characterized by tremors. The progressive nature of the disease makes it difficult for patients to receive a PD diagnosis. There is no cure for PD and although there are pharmaceutical medications and therapies available, many patients find relief from supplementing with medical marijuana. Parkinson’s Disease affects about one million people in the United States and ten million worldwide. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation, “the main finding in brains of people with PD is loss of dopaminergic neurons in the area of the brain known as the substantia nigra.”
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include tremors, neuropathic pain, insomnia, rigid body functions, bradykinsea (slowness of movement), limited mobility, difficulty with balance and, often, depression. A patient with Parkinson’s Disease will begin to lose dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is the chemical neurotransmitter that is essential in “controlling emotional responses and movement and the ability to feel pleasure and pain.” The Parkinson’s Foundation states that as dopamine-producing brain cells die, those cells become impaired and this causes increased issues with movement. Additionally, pharmaceutical medications have side effects for patients which can decrease the quality of life for the patient.
The human body contains an endocannabinoid system with receptors that produce chemicals within the brain. Within the endocannabinoid system, receptors bind to various cannabinoids to produce essential brain chemicals, including dopamine. Because Parkinson’s disease typically affects the dopaminergic neurons in the brain, it’s crucial to examine the endocannabinoid system and its effect on the progression of this disease.
Cannabinoids are compounds in cannabis that target cells in the body. Medical marijuana has been found to improve motor symptoms for Parkinson’s Disease patients. Two major ingredients in medical marijuana are THC, which initiates the psychoactive effects of the medicine, and Cannabidiol (CBD), which does not product psychoactive effects, but has exhibited positive effects systemically. Both THC and CBD bind to receptors in the brain and ultimately block the transmission of pain signals. CBD also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that medical cannabis was found to improve symptoms of PD in the initial states of treatment and did not cause major adverse effects. In 2017, the Complementary Therapies in Medicine reported that cannabis users reported using less prescription medications since supplementing their healthcare routine with cannabis. In another trial, clinicians reported that cannabis inhalation was associated with “improved pain relief.”
One method medical marijuana patients can utilize is tinctures made from cannabis extracts. Tincture drops can be placed under the tongue or even added to recipes. Cannabis extract oils are a simple way to administer the medication
Parkinson’s Disease is difficult for patient and caregiver. Each patient has unique needs. Speak to a certifying medical marijuana physician to understand the strains and methods available in Florida.