Cerebral palsy is a severe neurological condition affecting more than 500,000 children and adults in the U.S. alone. Every year, around 8000 babies are diagnosed with this debilitating disorder.
Over the years, many different therapies have been attempted to treat cerebral palsy. These include pharmaceutical options, physical therapy and even surgery. These often bring relief to CP patients, but can cause unwanted side effects.
Medical marijuana is showing promise as an effective treatment for cerebral palsy. It targets some of the most well-known symptoms associated with the disorder. Below you’ll learn how medical marijuana can help manage specific symptoms caused by this condition.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
To treat a condition, you need to understand it. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain malformation or some brain injury in infants and children. It can occur in the womb, during birth or even in early childhood. Children up to the age of three can develop CP. There are many known risk factors, including:
- Oxygen deprivation
- Medical malpractice
- Premature birth
Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
The brain injury that causes cerebral palsy affects a child’s brain development. The condition then manifests differently from person to person. The signs and symptoms can vary greatly and range from mild to severe. However, the most common side effects include:
- Chronic pain
- Rigidity — stiff muscles with normal reflexes
- Spasticity — stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes
- Stiff or floppy muscle tone
- Difficulties in hearing, vision and speech
- Spasms and other involuntary movements
- Decreased motor function
- Difficulty walking
- Sleep disturbance
CP doesn’t change with time, meaning a patient’s symptoms will most likely stay the same. However, certain symptoms like muscle rigidity can worsen if not treated.
Because of the severity of the symptoms, many patients struggling with CP end up feeling frustrated and despondent. Extreme anxiety and depression aren’t uncommon in adults living with this condition.
Managing CP Symptoms with Medical Marijuana
The research for treating cerebral palsy with medical marijuana is limited. However, these studies are showing favorable results. Many of the CP’s most aggravating symptoms are showing relief and even improvement due to cannabis medications.
- Chronic Pain. When cerebral palsy patients’ muscles become locked or rigid, this can cause severe pain. Medical marijuana is used by individuals all over the world to treat pain. It’s proven to be as effective as many prescription medications.
- Muscle Spasticity. The sublingual medication Sativex has been shown to reduce muscle spasticity in patients struggling with neurodegenerative conditions. But even smoking cannabis has proven to be an effective treatment for this common CP symptom.
- Seizures. Cerebral palsy causes seizures in almost half of the children diagnosed with the condition. Both CBD and THC are effective anti-epileptics, helping patients control seizure thresholds and severity.
- Sleep Disturbance. Cannabis can extend the time that patients spend in deep sleep. Indica strains are often used by many medical patients as sleep aids.
- Anxiety & Depression. It’s important for CP patients to maintain a positive outlook. The psychoactive agents present in cannabis can help fight depression and anxiety. Some strains are specifically designed to lift the spirit of the user.
Medical Marijuana Advantages
Aside from treating many of the symptoms related to CP, another benefit of medical marijuana is its relative safety. Many pharmaceuticals used to treat the uncontrolled body movements or spasticity associated with cerebral palsy cause harmful side effects, like addiction. Cannabis is an all-natural treatment that is much safer by comparison.