Parkinson’s Disease: Symptom Relief in Medical Cannabis Patients

parkinson's disease and medical cannabis

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuropharmacology shows potential for medical cannabis to provide symptom relief for people living with Parkinson’s.

A recent study was published in the Journal of Clinical Neuropharmacology and it shows potential for medical cannabis to provide symptom relief for people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

There is a growing number of people living with PD. And finding symptom relief from cannabis use is common. However, only a small number of clinical trials have explored the issue. Some even reporting improvements to motor and nonmotor symptoms and others reporting no effects.

In addition, a group of Israeli researchers conducted telephone interviews with a group of PD patients who had used medical cannabis (MC). It took roughly three months to assess the effect of cannabis on PD symptoms as well as any adverse effects.

The Study

47 people participated in the study, of which 40 were men. The average age of the group was 64.2 years old, and the average PD duration was 10.8 years. The duration of MC use ranged from 3 to 84 months, with an average of 19.1 months. 10 patients reported increasing the cannabis dose provides better effects.

First, the patient’s PD symptoms prior to MC treatment were assessed. Twenty-nine out of 45 (64.4%) had rest tremor, 24/45 (53.3%) had muscle stiffness, 24/45 (53.3%) had freezing of gait, 24/45 (53.3%) had gait disorders, and 22/47 (46.8%) had recurrent falls.

Varying degrees of depression were reported by 43/47 patients (10 mild, 20 moderate, and 13 severe). Memory impairment was reported by 33/44 patients (8 mild, 18 moderate, and 7 severe). Also, varying degrees of concentration problems were reported by 33/47 patients (8 mild, 17 moderate, and 8 severe). In addition, 31 patients reported experiencing chronic pain, and 31 patients reported having sleep disorders.

Effect of Medical Cannabis on Parkinson’s symptoms

Overall patients had improving results. Here are more of the findings:

  • Complaints of falling were reduced along with general muscle stiffness and tremors.
  • In addition, there were no reports of muscle stiffness or tremors getting worse.
  • Pain reduction was reported by 35/43 patients, with the remainder reporting no change.
  • An improvement in mood was noted by 35/46 patients, while one patient reported worsening of mood.
  • Improvements in sleep quality were reported by 33/46 patients, while one patient reported diminished sleep quality.
  • Only 10/40 patients reported memory improvements, while 23 reported no change and 7 reported a worsening of memory.

Five of the test patients decided to stop using medical cannabis. When asked about the reason for stopping cannabis use, two patients reported a lack of the desired effect. Similarly, another two others reported hallucinations, one patient reported postural instability.

Most noteworthy, there were no serious adverse effects or hospitalizations reported by any patients. However, twenty-eight of the patients noted some type of undesirable mental effect, such as confusion, anxiety, hallucinations, and short-term amnesia. One patient claimed to have developed psychosis as a result of cannabis use. In addition, two patients experience difficulty breathing reported coughing, while six other experienced dizziness and unsteadiness.

Overall, patients reported an improvement in their symptoms

Life improvements came as a result of improvements in pain, sleep, and mood. Evidence found that cannabis helped improve muscle stiffness, tremors, and the number of falls. This is very promising for people living with Parkison’s.

Though there were numerous non-serious adverse effects reported, the continuation of a medical cannabis treatment is valuable. Most patients can be viewed as an indicator of the benefits and subjective satisfaction of medical marijuana.

It is also important to take the limitations of the present study. Patients were not recruited through any systematic or randomized selection process, and all data was subjective and retrospective in nature. Nevertheless, the authors conclude that,

“most of the users had found medical cannabis to improve their condition, and that the treatment was safe, without major adverse effects.”

The reported findings prove the need for further clinical research on the use of medical cannabis for Parkinson’s symptom relief. Furthermore, finding safer and more effective drugs derived from cannabis would be impactful. In the meantime, researchers suggest that cannabis use should be limited to PD patients whose current medical treatment has not been effective.

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