Marijuana is rarely mentioned when it comes to some neurological disorders probably of the fact that fairly few people having these medical conditions have used the drug. Although only a very few clinical tests have investigated the effects of cannabinoids or marijuana on neurological disorders symptoms, clinical trials are still significant to consider with regard to the great quantity of cannabinoid receptors within the brain particularly in regions connected with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.
Movement disorders are a collection of neurological diseases which result from defects along basal ganglia which are groups of nerve cells found in the brain responsible for muscular activity whereby damage to such areas eventually affects the action of muscles in the limbs, face, and trunk. Some of these movement disorders that are candidates for marijuana-based therapies include dystonias, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette’s syndrome. It is equally important to remember that anxiety and stress are likely to aggravate movement disorders symptoms.
A sub-group of movement disorders sharing same symptoms are known as dystonias; symptoms include sustained and slow uncontrolled muscle contractions which oftentimes cause patients to grasp their trunks, necks, or limbs in peculiar positions. Such disorders may be restricted to a single part of the body such that as spasmodic torticollis that has an effect only on the neck; Meige’s syndrome, on the other hand, disfigures the face. Often causing painful and mild to fatal disability, these disorders are chronic and slowly progressive; other dystonias are hereditary whereas others happen as side effects of particular medicines and scientists nevertheless still need to find definite neurological malfunctions that result to dystonias.
There has been no controlled investigation of marijuana in people having dystonia that has been published. A chemical constituent of marijuana, cannabidiol, was experimented in an initial open test wherein patients were aware of receiving the experimented substance. Slight improvements that increased with the quantity of drug they have taken were exemplified by the five participants.
Better results transpired in a research of an animal representation for dystonia, a distorted strain of hamsters wherein scientists have trialled a synthetic cannabinoid that sets in to motion similar cellular receptors just like THC. Under the influence of cannabinoid, the rapid spasms of sudden, jerky actions or slow, recurring writhing motions that the hamsters exhibited have decreased.
Further, dystonia is as well a symptom of some key movement disorders which include Huntington’s disease. Such inherited disorder normally becomes evident during middle age, worsens, and inevitably leads to death in a span of 15 years from its manifestation. Symptoms of this disease include unrestrained muscle movements known as chorea, emotional trouble, and ultimately dementia. Some have proposed marijuana as an alternative medication to patients with Huntington’s disease since it reduces the feelings of stress and anxiety, which exacerbate involuntary movements. Studies in animals appear that cannabinoids may repress choreic movements which are presumed by provoking receptors along the basal ganglia.
Approximately one million Americans aged 50 and up are affected by one of the main distressing movement disorders – Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms that include this disease are muscular rigidity, instability, tremor, as well as impeded motion. The only effective drug so far to treat Parkinson’s disease – levodopa – has unfortunately many drawbacks and because of this, physicians are inclined to reserving it for impaired patients who are functional. After years of being used, this drug has the inclination to diminish quickly after every dose that is why patients continuously cycle through stages of disability and mobility including added side effects such as confusion, nausea, and hallucination.
Further, researchers believe that while levodopa noticeably enhances all the signs as well as symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the use of it may hasten the disease’s progress although there is no available clinical confirmation that attests to this concern. Cannabinoids could be in theory being helpful in curing the disorder because they act on the same neurological pathway that Parkinson’s disease disrupts.
Tourette’s syndrome, on the other hand, unlike that of Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, naturally emerges during childhood. This disease is characterized by different rapid, spontaneous, cyclic movements as well as vocalizations that are together called tics. The origins of this disease are mostly unidentified but are believed to damage brain areas that change a person’s intent to go into definite movements and injuries to these areas produce involuntary movements in Huntington’s disease and limit voluntary movements in Parkinson’s disease.
Four clinical case studies show that marijuana employment can lessen tics in Tourette’s patients and in three out of four cases researches propose that the properties of marijuana on anxiety-reduction also caused the improvement of patients’ symptoms.
Unfortunately, although convincing basic facts exist for the part of cannabinoids especially in movement, clinical verification for their helpfulness in alleviating symptoms and signs of movement disorders is deficient. The few available researches were conducted only on a few patients without the consideration that marijuana’s anti-anxiety effects may diminish the symptoms being investigated. Further, though there are isolated anecdotal studies about marijuana helping patients with such disorders, Surveys implying that these patients’ experiences are at the most representative, are non-existent. The IOM team suggests doing placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical tests of single cannabinoids like THC for movement disorders treatment.
IOM also particularized that these tests should assess the influence of cannabinoids on movement only, meaning, these experiments must differentiate cannabinoids’ effects on anxiety or mood from their effects on movement. Cannabinoids, consequently, characterize an exciting possibility for curing movement disorders but this still needs to be proven.