Marijuana & PD

Marijuana & PD

While the medications that doctors prescribe for PD can be helpful, there remain gaps in what the medications can treat. Some people with PD are eager to find alternative methods to help their symptoms and look into whether other therapies, such as medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, can be useful.

The two primary chemicals that are isolated from the cannabis plant are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC exerts the mind-altering effects that recreational marijuana is known for, whereas CBD does not. For the most part, medical marijuana consists of purified combinations of these two chemicals in varying ratios. The combination can be dispensed as a liquid, pill or nasal spray.

Based on what is known about the biology of cannabis, one could hypothesize that THC and/or CBD may be helpful for aspects of PD such as tremor, stiffness, insomnia, dystonia, pain, dyskinesias or weight loss – but more research needs to be done to help us truly understand what symptoms THC and CBD can treat and what doses are needed. This is a challenge however because the federal government continues to consider marijuana an illegal substance and will not fund research involving marijuana. There are various efforts to try to change this, with the hope of opening up medical marijuana to further study.

Just like any medication, medical marijuana can interact with other prescription medications and can also have side effects. Therefore, patients need to discuss all of the risks and benefits with their doctor.

In the United States, medical marijuana is available in some form in 46 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. However, there are vast differences as to how it is regulated so be sure to research the specific the laws in your state.

Tips and takeaways

  • Talk to your physician about whether your symptoms may be amenable to treatment with medical marijuana, possible interaction with your other medications, and all potential side effects.
  • If you try medical marijuana, be sure to assess the positive benefits and the side effects just like you would any new medication, and report back to your physician.
  • Keep on the lookout for additional clinical trials to help assess whether medical marijuana is useful for specific PD symptoms.

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