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Parkinson's Disease and Medical Marijuana

Nearly two centuries ago, in India, cannabis was often prescribed to Parkinson’s patients to help ease tremors. Long before researchers knew about dopamine and its effects on motor function, individuals were finding relief this way.

Parkinson’s and treatments

Researchers are testing cannabis as a treatment for many illnesses and diseases, including Parkinson's disease. Some researchers think that cannabis might be neuroprotective, saving neurons from damage caused by Parkinson's.

Cannabinoids (the drug molecules in cannabis) have also been studied for use in treating other symptoms, including bradykinesia (slowness caused by PD) and dyskinesia (excess movement caused by levodopa). We naturally make our own cannabinoids that bind to receptors found throughout the body and brain - this is called the “endocannabinoid system.” When these cannabinoids bind to receptors, they can impact brain chemicals, including dopamine, which decreases in Parkinson's.

One area of the brain that contains a high number of these receptors is the basal ganglia - the complex of cells that controls movement and is affected in PD. Because the cannabinoids in cannabis work in some of the same areas and ways as those made by the body, researchers have looked into what role they could play in modifying PD and in treating motor and non-motor symptoms. Several cannabinoid trials have reported benefit on Parkinson's motor and non-motor symptoms including pain, sleep dysfunction, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and psychosis.

 

Links

Self-Reported Efficacy of Cannabis and Other Complementary Medicine Modalities by Parkinson's Disease Patients in Colorado

National Institutes of Health

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Marijuana Compounds: A Nonconventional Approach to Parkinson's Disease Therapy

National Institutes of Health

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Cannabinoid Receptors and Their Relationships with Neuropsychiatric Disorders

International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology

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Cannabis (Medical Marijuana) Treatment for Motor and Non–Motor Symptoms of Parkinson Disease: An Open-Label Observational Study

Clinical Neuropharmacology

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