Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Patients with Parkinson’s disease go through a variety of symptoms related to muscle movement, such as frequent tremors or muscle stiffness. While we don’t have a cure for Parkinson’s disease, we can relieve some of its symptoms and slow its progression. Treatment can involve pills, lifestyle changes and surgery.
Some patients dealing with Parkinson’s disease are adding medical marijuana to their treatment regimen. Since Parkinson’s seems to have a connection to dopamine levels, the dopamine boost caused by cannabis can help relieve its primary and secondary symptoms.
In one study, Kindred et al. gathered information from patients regarding their Parkinson’s symptoms and marijuana use. Since we still have little research on medical cannabis, they wanted to study its use for Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. A collection of anecdotal evidence from patients could spark more detailed study.
To collect data easily and accurately, the team used an online survey posted to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and National Multiple Sclerosis Society websites for eight months. The questionnaire included inquiries about demographics, cannabis use and symptoms. They then organized the data and analyzed it with statistical software.
The survey received 801 views, and 595 patients had their answers included in the final data analysis, 76 percent of whom had Parkinson’s disease. Whether they had Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, patients who used marijuana had fewer mood problems, memory issues and fatigue.
While we have plenty of studies showing that we can use marijuana as medicine, clinical trials involving its use for Parkinson’s have inconsistent results. So, Lotan et al. conducted a clinical trial assessing cannabis’ ability to relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms. They wanted to observe both motor and non-motor symptoms.
The team worked with 22 patients with Parkinson’s who attended a motor disorder clinic. They evaluated the patients at the beginning of the test and 30 minutes after a patient smoked cannabis. To measure symptoms and changes, the researchers used scales for condition severity and pain.
Cannabis greatly improved the patients’ Parkinson’s symptoms across the board. They had much lower scores on a disease rating scale, as well as better mobility. The medical marijuana also improved their sleep quality and reduced their pain. None of the patients experienced any major side effects from the drug. Lotan et al. concluded these results merit more thorough research.
Like the experts from the previous two studies, Shohet et al. wanted to understand more about cannabis’ effect on Parkinson’s disease. But, they also had an interest in looking at how it affected Parkinson’s patients’ pain perception. So, they conducted a study involving thermal quantitative sensory testing.
Shohet’s team worked with 20 patients who had medical cannabis licenses. They assessed the patients at three points of cannabis use: before use, 30 minutes after use and after long-term use. The team used a condition severity scale, two pain scales and thermal quantitative sensory testing. Thermal testing allowed the researchers to record when the patients felt pain, heat or cold.
Overall, cannabis improved the patients’ motor and pain symptoms. It also changed the ways they felt temperature-related pain. Patients who smoked their cannabis medicine had a lower threshold for cold pain in the limb where they had the most Parkinson’s symptoms.
If you want to learn more about cannabis medicine and Parkinson’s disease, you don’t have to do it alone. Our guide to Parkinson’s disease can teach you about your condition and how medical cannabis can help. Patients ready to get relief should get in touch with a marijuana-certified physician using the MarijuanaDoctors.com database.