Recently a video went viral in which a man with Parkinson’s disease (PD) tries cannabis for the first time, placing a drop of cannabinoid oil (CBD oil) under his tongue. Within minutes, his symptoms improve significantly: the dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movements) disappears almost entirely, and his voice returns. The significant reaction to the drug begs the question: can cannabis be used to help manage PD?
Clinical Studies on Medical Marijuana for PD
Unfortunately, as the Parkinson’s Foundation points out, the clinical trials on using marijuana for PD have been incredibly varied. Some studies use as few as five participants, and as a result, fail to meet the minimum research standards needed to garner support among the medical community. That hasn’t stopped patients from seeking the treatment themselves, however: 95% of neurologists say their patients have asked for a medical marijuana prescription.
Moreover, groups like The Michael J. Fox Foundation, among others, have called for the reclassification of marijuana, which could make it easier to conduct research. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government. Drugs within this category are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no known acceptable medical applications. To complicate matters further, there is currently a lack of standardized or known doses for CBD, as well as variable concentrations of the active ingredient. Nonetheless, in low doses, CBD appears to be well tolerated, though it poses side effects such as cognitive changes, nausea, and dizziness.
How Does CBD Work?
We know that the chemicals in marijuana react with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. What researchers are still working to figure out is precisely how CBD effects these receptors. Trials show mixed results: while some patients have experienced improved motor and non-motor symptoms, others did not experience improvement. Limited studies show decreases in psychosis and tremors, as well as improvements in quality of life.
Could Cannabis Be Right for You?
While incorporating any form of cannabis will likely not replace PD medications, it’s possible that patients may experience a reduction in symptoms with CBD use. If you’re considering this treatment, talk to your doctor, who can recommend a treatment regimen based on your needs.
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