Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder. People afflicted with Parkinson's will gradually have a tougher time performing normal tasks like walking and talking as the disease progresses. This disorder is very common among older ages and it is related to Alzheimer's. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are caused by a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Causes Parkinson’s?
Parkinson's is specifically caused by the destruction of dopaminergic neurons in the area of the brain responsible for regulating movement. Dopaminergic neurons are cells within the nervous system responsible for the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control movement and emotional responses.
According to the Parkinson's Foundation, approximately 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease, with about 4% diagnosed before the age of 50. Men are more likely than women to develop Parkinson's.
Parkinson's Disease Symptoms
People with Parkinson's experience a wide array of issues including:
- poor balance and coordination
- insomnia, slowed movements
- perceptible tremors in the face, jaw, hands and arms
- stiff muscles and general stiffness of the trunk, arms and legs
- problems speaking, chewing and swallowing
Traditional Treatments for Parkinson’s
Current treatment options include the administration of medication, surgery, and Deep Brain Simulation (DBS), which involves the surgical implantation of electrodes in the brain. Levodopa and Carbidopa are the typical medications prescribed for managing Parkinson's. Levodopa can cause dyskinesia, an uncontrolled movement of the tongue, face, mouth, legs and arms.
Marijuana as Treatment for Parkinson's
Medical cannabis can help in the management of Parkinson's since the endocannabinoid system is strongly related to the release of dopamine in the body. The cannabinoids in cannabis can help in achieving a positive outcome in the management of Parkinson's because cannabinoids work as neuro-protective agents, that guard against the destruction of neurons.
A 2004 study by the Prague Movement Disorder Center to study alternative treatment used by patients with Parkinson's, revealed that 25% of 339 respondents had taken cannabis, with 45.9% reporting an improvement in symptoms.
A 2011–2012 study by Israeli researchers to analyze the effect of cannabis on motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease in 22 patients, showed a significant improvement in symptoms after only 30 minutes of smoking cannabis.
Photo Credit: Edwin Lee