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Huntington’s Disease and Medical Marijuana

Research has shown that cannabis helps slow the progression of Huntington’s disease through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. After studies determined that Huntington’s disease was related to a loss of cannabinoid receptors in the basal ganglia, researchers set out to examine whether increasing endocannabinoid activity could be therapeutically beneficial for treating the disease. Results have been encouraging. The major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have been found to be effective at protecting the life of neurons in the brain.

About Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a neurological disorder caused by an inherited genetic mutation. Although the disease progresses slowly, patients have difficulty moving, suffer from involuntary tremors, reduced cognitive functioning and psychiatric disorders. Huntington’s disease has no known cure and little effective drug treatments.

Disease Research and Cannabis

The genetic mutation that causes Huntington’s disease can damage striatal and cortical neurons. Because of this, neuroprotective drugs are at the forefront of Huntington’s disease research.

Initial research has shown that CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis oil, displays neuroprotective effects in mice with similar conditions to the disease, but the knowledge on how this works is limited.

Experimental evidence has shown researchers that CBD aids neurons with its antioxidant properties. Though CBD and THC are almost identical molecules, CBD’s arrangement allows it to be safe and tolerable at high doses in humans. THC is not as powerful an antioxidant, but it interacts strongly with cannabinoid receptors, unlike CBD which interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a more complex and indirect manner.

In a later experiment, CBD and THC administered together at equal ratios also caused similar but enhanced neuroprotective effects compared to using CBD alone. This indicates that another factor may be involved with cannabinoid receptors, and not just the benefits of a neural antioxidant.

Because the endocannabinoid system is intricately tied to the progression of Huntington’s disease, and researchers have discovered that early in the progression of the disease, cannabinoid receptors disappear massively in striatal neurons, cannabis may help slow the progression of the disease.



Neuroprotection by Cannabinoids in Huntington’s Disease

Cannabinoids: Novel Medicines for the Treatment of Huntington’s disease

Cannabis in Movement Disorders

THC for Huntington’s disease? CB1 receptors important for more than drug use

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