Medical Marijuana and Parkinson’s Disease



Medical Marijuana and Parkinson’s Disease

When you are in pain, and stiff and suffering from PARKINSON’S DISEASE, you want something, anything, that will bring relief.  And members of a certain generation probably tried marijuana, long before they had PARKINSON’S DISEASE and found the results pleasurable.  Now, when those same pleasurable effects could soothe the strain of a disabling disease, political controversy impedes the Food and Drug Administration from being able to conduct the necessary research and clinical trials.

An observational study recently done in Israel showed considerable improvement in tremors, muscle rigidity, pain when subjects were tested 30 minutes after inhaling marijuana. Twenty subjects, all about 66 years of age and diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease for over 7 years, were tested using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) both before and 30 minutes after smoking cannabis in the clinic.  Their scores on tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia all decreased significantly and the subjects claimed the benefit lasted for 2 or 3 hours after smoking.  Fine motor skills were also improved and 12 of subjects reported major improvements in their sleep while 8 said that their sleep was somewhat improved.  While this study had some limitations, that there were no control subjects and it was of a limited size and a short duration, it does demonstrate a therapeutic benefit for both motor and non-motor symptoms, which should lead to more in-depth studies.  The potential of marijuana treatment for subjects who have limited or no response to standard medications must also be closely considered.

Another small study done in the Czech Republic queried 339 subjects with PARKINSON’S DISEASE on whether or not they had used marijuana.  One quarter of them responded that they had and 45 percent of them noted that their symptoms had been helped.

The above are recent examples of research on cannabinoids, but any serious researcher can find some of the earliest mentions of the use of marijuana in medicine go back thousands of years. The Chinese Emperor, Chen Nung, who is considered the father of Chinese medicine, discovered the medicinal properties of not only marijuana, but ephedra and ginseng.  He lived around 2700 B.C.   In 1700 B.C., the Egyptians in written medical records, referred to therapeutic marijuana use.  In 1500 B.C. the Chinese pharmacopoeia, Rh-Ya, has a written entry for marijuana as a medicine.

There are many records of cannabis sativa used for medical purposes from earliest recorded history to present time–even records kept by the U.S. presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson about the hemp (marijuana) that they were growing in their own plantations.  Early records indicate it was useful for relieving nausea, improving appetite, improving depression, and as pain reliever. Later it was found to relieve the pressure of glaucoma in the eye.  Marijuana as medicine has a long history.

It was not until the late 1800s when the western world saw a development of a moralistic era of prohibitions that medical marijuana came into a decline.  The prohibitionists were against not only marijuana, but alcohol, gambling, prostitution and other commonly used narcotics, such as opium and laudanum.  In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Harrison Act”, which became the model for all future drug regulation legislation and lead to the “Marijuana Act” of 1937, which effectively criminalized any use of marijuana.

Interestingly, almost 100 years later, public acceptance of marijuana for medical purposes is high and the legislative action is changing.  Here in Florida, the legislators are drawing up new regulations not so much with “If’ medical marijuana is approved as for “When”.  The referendum that will be on the November ballot: “Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.  Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana….”


Review and article written by Marcia McCall


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