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Medical Marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy

What Is Muscular Dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy encompasses an entire group of more than 30 inherited disorders, all of which cause the loss of skeletal muscle tissue and accompanying muscle weakness. Unfortunately, all of the disorders that make up the muscular dystrophy, or MD, group are known to degenerate, or get worse over time. As a result, keeping the patient comfortable and as pain-free as possible is often one of the most prominent treatment goals.  Muscular Dystrophy Common Groups Treated with Marijuana Among the common members of the group of MD disorders are Becker muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Facioscapulohumerol muscular dystrophy, Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, Myotonia congenita, and Myotonic muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy encompasses an entire group of more than 30 inherited disorders, all of which cause the loss of skeletal muscle tissue and accompanying muscle weakness.

Medical Marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy

MD itself does not typically cause severe pain; however, secondary chronic pain associated with the disorders is estimated to affect two-thirds of the sufferers. Pain is caused by muscle cramps or spasms as well as stiff joints, pressure sores and muscle twitches. While traditional treatments such as physical therapy, heat application and exercise can alleviate some of the pain associated with MD, narcotic pain medication is often required at some point. Opiates, the group of pain medications typically prescribed for suffers of chronic pain, can help to alleviate pain; however, they also come at a high cost. Side effects of opiate based medications can be severe and dangerous. Aside from the risk of addiction, opiate based pain medications can also cause severe constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, difficulty urinating, itching and a variety of other negative side effects. In addition, patients who use opiate based narcotic pain medications typically build up a tolerance to the medication rather quickly, meaning more of the same medication is needed to control the pain.

Medical Marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy: Clinical Evidence
Medical marijuana may help MD sufferers who live with chronic pain avoid building up a never-ending tolerance to opiate based pain medication. A recent study looked at the effect of adding medical marijuana to the daily regime of patients who consume opiate based pain medication for chronic pain. The study found that the participants experienced an average drop in pain level of 27 percent while not significantly affecting the blood-levels of the prescription drugs. For MD patients, in particular, excessive levels of opiates in the blood can be extremely dangerous given the respiratory problems common to MD sufferers. The fact that medical marijuana was able to reduce pain levels without increasing opiate blood levels is important.
Smoking marijuana has been found to be the most effective and rapid mechanism for relaying the active compounds to the brain, thereby allowing the sufferer to feel immediate relief from pain as well as offering better control over medication levels. Smoking anything, however, is clearly not good for your lungs or respiratory system. An MD sufferer may have a particularly compromised respiratory system. Luckily, there is another, equally effective, yet healthier mechanism for using medical marijuana - vaporization. Because the active compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, are volatile, they can be vaporized at a temperature level significantly lower than that needed to reach combustion, or smoke. As a result, hot air can simply be drawn through the marijuana, which in turn vaporizes the cannabinoids and frees them for inhalation.

Marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy

MD itself does not typically cause severe pain; however, secondary chronic pain associated with the disorders is estimated to affect two-thirds of the sufferers. Pain is caused by muscle cramps or spasms as well as stiff joints, pressure sores and muscle twitches. While traditional treatments such as physical therapy, heat application and exercise can alleviate some of the pain associated with MD, narcotic pain medication is often required at some point. Opiates, the group of pain medications typically prescribed for suffers of chronic pain, can help to alleviate pain; however, they also come at a high cost. Side effects of opiate based medications can be severe and dangerous. Aside from the risk of addiction, opiate based pain medications can also cause severe constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, difficulty urinating, itching and a variety of other negative side effects. In addition, patients who use opiate based narcotic pain medications typically build up a tolerance to the medication rather quickly, meaning more of the same medication is needed to control the pain.

Can Medical Marijuana Treat my Muscualr Dystrophy

All the MD disorders are inherited, meaning the genes causing the disorder are passed down through families. The age of onset, degree of muscle loss and weakness, rate at which the disorder progresses through the body, and the pattern of inheritance within the family can vary significantly among the MD disorders. Duchenne MD, the most common of all the MD disorders, for example, affects males at an early age, commonly between the ages of three and five years old. Duchenne MD also progresses rapidly, often leaving the sufferer unable to walk as early as age 12. Females in a Duchenne MD family have a 50 percent chance of passing the Duchenne MD gene down to their children. Myontic MD, on the other hand, typically waits until the adult years to show symptoms and progresses slower but can be marked by prolonged muscle spasms among other symptoms.

Can Medical Marijuana Cure Muscular Dystrophy 

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for any of the MD disorders. Conventional treatment attempts to control seizures and muscle spasms as well as provide physical, respiratory and speech therapy in order to give the patient the best quality of life possible.  Medical marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy has been known to help treat some of the sideeffects associated with Muscualr Dystrophy.  Unfortunately, all of the disorders that make up the muscular dystrophy, or MD, group are known to degenerate, or get worse over time. As a result, keeping the patient comfortable and as pain-free as possible is often one of the most prominent treatment goals. Among the common members of the group of MD disorders are Becker muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, Facioscapulohumerol muscular dystrophy, Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, Myotonia congenita, and Myotonic muscular dystrophy.

Medical Marijuana and Muscular Dystrophy: Clinical Evidence

Medical marijuana may help MD sufferers who live with chronic pain avoid building up a never-ending tolerance to opiate based pain medication. A recent study looked at the effect of adding medical marijuana to the daily regime of patients who consume opiate based pain medication for chronic pain. The study found that the participants experienced an average drop in pain level of 27 percent while not significantly affecting the blood-levels of the prescription drugs. For MD patients, in particular, excessive levels of opiates in the blood can be extremely dangerous given the respiratory problems common to MD sufferers. The fact that medical marijuana was able to reduce pain levels without increasing opiate blood levels is important.
Smoking marijuana has been found to be the most effective and rapid mechanism for relaying the active compounds to the brain, thereby allowing the sufferer to feel immediate relief from pain as well as offering better control over medication levels. Smoking anything, however, is clearly not good for your lungs or respiratory system. An MD sufferer may have a particularly compromised respiratory system. Luckily, there is another, equally effective, yet healthier mechanism for using medical marijuana - vaporization. Because the active compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, are volatile, they can be vaporized at a temperature level significantly lower than that needed to reach combustion, or smoke. As a result, hot air can simply be drawn through the marijuana, which in turn vaporizes the cannabinoids and frees them for inhalation.

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