Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes an ongoing breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Patients with Huntington’s disease may experience both physical and cognitive complications, including uncontrollable movements or spasms, emotional issues and difficulties with processing thoughts. Because this disorder is progressive, it’s crucial to find an active form of treatment that manages the complications of this disease.
Because patients with Huntington’s disease often experience debilitating symptoms from this disorder, it’s crucial that they form a treatment plan that alleviates these unwanted side effects. Marijuana is one such option that provides relief while avoiding many of the adverse effects of traditional pharmaceuticals. Medical cannabis can stimulate appetite, induce a “high” feeling and promote healthy sleeping patterns — results that benefit the average Huntington’s disease patient.
Below, we will examine case studies that explore the possible advantages of initiating a medical marijuana treatment plan for Huntington’s disease patients.
Until recently, health professionals did fully support administering cannabis varieties to Huntington’s disease patients. However, as early as 1991, researchers wanted to understand what effect CBD — a non-psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis — has on genetic disorders.
In a 1991 case study administered by Paul Consroe et al., 15 neuroleptic-free patients with Huntington’s disease received oral CBD administration for six weeks. These patients were randomly selected to receive CBD, while another group received placebo medication. Neither group was aware of which drug they were receiving.
The study concluded that CBD provided neither relief from symptoms nor adverse effects. Although the CBD medication was likened to the results of a placebo, this study failed to examine the effects of cannabis with THC on Huntington’s disease patients.
In 2011, researchers published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience Research that displayed their results from a study that administered Sativex-like phytocannabinoids to rats. In their study, researchers applied botanical extracts enhanced with cannabidiol (CBD) and THC in rat models mimicking the symptoms of Huntington’s disease. These two components mirrored the ingredients found in Sativex, a marijuana-based medication that was administered to qualifying patients.
The results from this study highlighted the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis as a potential form of relief for those with Huntington’s disease. Malonate-lesioned rats also demonstrated added neuroprotection from the administration of THC and CBD-enriched extracts.
This study prompts further investigation into the effects of cannabis medications on Huntington’s disease patients due to the symptom management these rats experienced while receiving CBD and THC extracts.
In 2016, researchers in Madrid from the Foundation for Biomedical Investigation initiated the first clinical trial to examine the effects of pure cannabis extracts on Huntington’s disease treatment. This groundbreaking study provided innovative insights into the potentially curative properties of CBD for Huntington’s disease patients.
The evidence from this study suggests that CBD assists neurons in enhancing antioxidant properties within the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for ensuring homeostasis, a normalized response to external and internal stimuli that allows for proper functioning. Because this system may experience some irregularities in Huntington’s disease patients, CBD produces likely effects due to its ability to stimulate vital receptors.
Since this study was the first to administer medicinal marijuana to Huntington’s disease patients, the results from their experimentation will hopefully serve as an impetus to investigate CBD further for those with this disorder.
If you or a loved one is currently experiencing the symptoms of Huntington’s disease, it’s crucial to develop a treatment plan that provides sufficient relief. Fortunately, many individuals with this disease can efficiently manage their symptoms when they follow a medical plan that includes marijuana. Find out more about how you can qualify for medical cannabis for your condition by reaching out to a doctor in your area today.