Parkinson's and medical marijuana

Published: 7/17/2017 10:00 AM
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More than one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s and more than 10 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with this debilitating disease. Medical costs associated with Parkinson’s are estimated to be $25 billion a year in the United States alone. On average, any individual living with the disease may have to shell out upwards of $2,500 a year just to maintain a better quality of life, and that’s not including the costs of therapeutic surgeries.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, with more than half of all diagnoses occurring in men. Dopamine, a chemical that signals the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination becomes scarce, leaving the patient unable to control their movements normally. It is still a mystery as to why certain people are more prone to developing Parkinson’s or why some experience stronger symptoms than others.

The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremors, or uncontrollable shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face, delayed movements, stiffness in the limbs and impaired balance. Many of these symptoms worsen over time, and as a result, patients are forced to use a wheelchair, cane or other medical accessory and are considered a fall risk. Some can no longer work, financially straining themselves and their families. Although there is no cure, there are many different treatment options that can help manage the disease and its symptoms. Yoga, aquatic exercise and physical therapy have all proven to lessen the onset of symptoms. More recently though, there has been significant anecdotal research in the aid of medical marijuana and Parkinson’s disease.

Follow “Rides with Larry” on Facebook and YouTube and see firsthand how tinctures of cannabis reduced his tremors within 20 minutes. On more than one occasion his tremors are so paralyzing that he can no longer talk or sit up straight. However, with the inclusion of cannabis in his treatment regimen, Larry got his voice back and more control over his own movements. For something so debilitating, these results are earth-shattering for himself and his caregivers.

Because of the Endocannabinoid system, it is believed that cannabis works to protect the neurons and block, or at least lessen, the symptoms of Parkinson’s like nausea, tremors, pain, discomfort and insomnia. It appears both THC and CBD have proven to be effective, with THC being slightly more effective than CBD-only products.

As with anything, there are always risks. Since THC has a more profound impact, Parkinson’s patients need to utilize caution. Because THC is psychoactive, if the patient takes too much they will increase their risk for dizziness, blurred vision, loss of balance and impaired cognition. However, when used appropriately and under the care of a physician, the positive effects far outweigh the negative.

In Pennsylvania, Parkinson’s disease is one of the 17 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients. With the Pennsylvania program now in progress, it’s time to start talking to your doctor about medical marijuana as a serious treatment option.

(Millo is vice president of development for Power Plant Medicinal, Pittston.)

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