Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Patients struggling with the incurable movement disorder dystonia know how important viable treatment options are to their condition. Dystonia causes involuntary muscle contractions that can be extremely painful. Faulty brain signals make muscles pull, twist and spasm incorrectly, which can cause the body to form an abnormal posture as well as other potential complications.
Evidence suggests medical marijuana could be an effective treatment for patients with dystonia. Cannabis medications, especially those rich in CBD, show incredible results when used to treat conditions accompanied by severe muscle spasms. Plus, both CBD and THC can regulate excitatory neurotransmitters that cause the faulty brain signals associated with dystonia. Cannabis is also an extremely effective pain reliever.
As far back as 1986, researchers discovered cannabidiol could be used to treat dystonic movement disorders, such as dystonia. The study — which was published in Psychiatry Research, a peer-reviewed medical journal — explored the effects of cannabidiol on two patients struggling with conditions that caused involuntary muscle spasms and tremors. The male patient was even confined to a wheelchair due to his dystonia.
After administering CBD medications to both patients, marked improvements were noted. Dystonic movements were improved, and the patient in the wheelchair was able to walk without assistance for about 24 hours. Additionally, the medication produced no adverse side effects. All results were observed and noted by the researchers and confirmed by two additional neurologists.
Another study performed in Turkey in 2010 focused on one patient who developed dystonia due to the use of antipsychotic drugs. When the patient developed schizophrenia at the age of 28, he was taken to a psychiatric hospital and prescribed several medications. After just eight months, he began experiencing:
He had not experienced these symptoms previously, and he had no family history of movement disorders. Over the next several months, he became severely disabled.
When the researchers took over the patient’s care, he had been arrested for self-medicating with cannabis for two years. He reported that marijuana dramatically improved his dystonic symptoms. The researchers attempted to find another therapy regimen that was as effective, but nothing they tried worked as well as cannabis. This led them to report in their study that medical weed could have an invaluable effect on the treatment of dystonia.
A broader study by The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics reviewed clinical research of how cannabis could be used to treat neurologic conditions like dystonia. The objective of this study was to see if there was any validity to the claim that marijuana improved the side effects caused by dystonia.
They found that the cannabinoids in marijuana work with the CB1 receptors to act as neuromodulators. This reduces the adverse side effects felt by dystonia and allows patients to function more normally. They used two case studies as evidence of marijuana’s benefit to patients. Both the 1981 study and the 2002 study showed patients received marked improvements to their dystonia by smoking marijuana.
The article concluded with a call for additional studies. The researchers believe cannabis has promising potential as a treatment therapy, but suggest that larger studies would prove this further.
If you live in a state where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes, you could qualify as a patient. Although it’s not a qualifying condition in all states, dystonia is often accompanied by chronic pain, a symptom many states do approve of.
For more information about cannabis treatments or, search our database of physicians to find a marijuana doctor near you.