Neurodegenerative illnesses are among the most challenging medical diagnoses anyone can receive. Cures are rare, and symptoms often get worse very quickly after diagnosis.
Cannabis is quickly becoming one of the essential medical supplements of our time. Its best-known uses in healthcare include stimulation of appetite, treatment of insomnia, and pain management. As research in this area gets more in-depth, we are starting to learn more about how cannabis might help specific conditions.
Neurodegenerative illnesses are a family of diseases that cause massive devastation to both sufferers and their families. While these conditions are incurable in many cases, some treatments can manage their most harmful symptoms. Experts now realize that cannabis is useful for this purpose. We’ve gone through the uses of cannabis for those with neurodegenerative conditions in detail here.
What are Neurodegenerative Diseases?
Before you visit your nearest cannabis dispensary, it might be useful to learn a little more about what precisely neurodegenerative diseases are. Look at some of the most common neurodegenerative diseases below.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that is common in older people. Symptoms include loss of short-term memory, disorientation, and irrational hostility. When the condition becomes more advanced, sufferers may get to a stage where they do not recognize family members and close friends and may require 24-hour care.
After diagnosis, the speed of the onset of symptoms can vary significantly. Some people will maintain a standard quality of life for years after they receive their initial diagnosis, while others may go downhill very quickly.
- Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition with primarily physical symptoms. The most recognizable symptom of Parkinson’s is a bodily tremor; these tremors are often so severe that they render patients unable to carry out even the simplest of tasks unaided.
Other symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include:
- Loss of balance
- Slowed movement
- Poor posture
- Slurred speech
- Motor neuron diseases
Motor neuron diseases are a family of conditions that affect movement, speech, and bodily function. Perhaps the family’s best-known is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The symptoms of one of these conditions include;
- Discomfort, cramps, or twitching in muscles
- Slurring of speech
- Inability to grip objects normally
- Weakness in limbs resulting in an inability to walk normally
Motor neuron issues may also cause cognitive symptoms. For example, some patients find that they cannot keep from crying or laughing in certain situations, even in inappropriate responses.
- Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that arises in the presence of a defective gene in one of our chromosomes. It is a hereditary disease; if you inherit the gene from one of your parents, you will eventually develop it. Specialists have developed a test for the condition, indicating its likely onset long before patients experience symptoms.
The symptoms of Huntington’s Disease include;
- Loss of motor function
- Involuntary bodily movements
- Loss of ability to think normally
- Severe reduction in logical reasoning skills
- Unexplained mood swings, including instances of anger and irritability
How Can Cannabis Help With Neurodegenerative Diseases?
There are many different ways in which cannabis can have a positive impact on those with neurodegenerative diseases. We’ve looked at the most important of these below.
- Symptom Management
The most significant consideration when it comes to cannabis use as a patient with a neurodegenerative disease is whether it will ease your symptoms. How effective cannabis will be in this context depends on the specific condition in question. Cannabis has noted benefits for both the motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Animal research indicates that this is due to CBD and THC; these have a neuroprotective impact.
There is also evidence that cannabinoids (whether together or in isolation) could limit the onset of the dementia symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. THC can slow the release of beta-amyloid proteins, which experts believe are vital contributors to Alzheimer’s. While more research is required on these applications, the future looks bright when it comes to the treatment of neurodegenerative symptoms with cannabis. It is worth noting that these kinds of diseases are often made worse by stress. As cannabis is a very effective stress reliever, it may ease symptoms indirectly in this way.
- Pain Reduction
One of the most famous applications of cannabis in a medical context is as a painkiller. The plant is effective in treating all kinds of pain, both inflammatory and neuropathic. The pain associated with neurodegenerative conditions is generally neuropathic. This means that it arises from damage to the central nervous system, rather than a physical injury. Cannabis treats this kind of pain by exercising a calming influence over the central nervous system, easing painful sensations.
- Improved Sleep
Another well-known health benefit of cannabis is improved sleep, whether for those with clinical insomnia or less serious sleep issues.
While the loss of sleep isn’t typically associated with neurodegenerative problems, it can exacerbate existing issues if it does happen. Your brain health is heavily reliant on quality sleep, so insomnia needs to be addressed in neurodegenerative patients. Consuming cannabis before going to bed can improve your chances of having an uninterrupted night’s sleep massively, due to its calming influence on the central nervous system.
- Lessening of Anxiety
Unfortunately, most neurodegenerative conditions cannot be cured. While patients can manage their symptoms very effectively in many cases, the conditions will usually worsen over time. This situation can give rise to severe anxiety, as sufferers worry about what will happen once their illness becomes highly advanced. Cannabis can help to ease this kind of anxiety.
As noted above, relief of stress and anxiety can indirectly treat the symptoms of neurodegenerative illnesses, which is another essential function of cannabis in this regard. This relief is achieved by the interaction of cannabinoids with our CB2 receptors.
Neurodegenerative illnesses are among the most challenging medical diagnoses anyone can receive. Cures are rare, and symptoms often get worse very quickly after diagnosis. However, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life despite neurodegenerative illness. Integrating cannabis into your daily routine might just be one of these steps.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2020). Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Amyotrophic-Lateral-Sclerosis-ALS-Fact-Sheet
- Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience (2019). Marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease? Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6450681/
- Journal of Pharmacopuncture (2019). A Review on Studies of Marijuana for Alzheimer’s Disease – Focusing on CBD, THC. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6970569/
- Alzheimer’s Association (2020). Huntington’s Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/huntington-s-disease.