There has been lot of speculation over the decades about cannabis being useful for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Many people have written about the apparent effects of cannabidiol for Parkinson’s over the years but most were personal accounts with no clinical evidence. Since scientific findings were not forthcoming, many people have relied on individual accounts and opinions to try out marijuana, cannabis extracts and CBD oil to manage symptoms of Parkinson’s. Now, we have at least two studies that definitively shed some factual light on the issue.
The studies suggest that cannabidiol can improve sleep. It can enhance motor function and reduce tremor. The studies are not completely conclusive and more research is necessary. However, the anecdotal reports are much better and more informative than individual accounts or personal opinions. The findings of two such studies were made public at the 21st International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders. The studies explored the effects of oral CBD or cannabidiol. For those unaware, cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive substance found in cannabis plants. It is one of the over hundred cannabinoids present in the cannabis plants. CBD is not THC or tetrahydorcannabinol, which is the psychoactive substance in marijuana.
The researchers of these studies assessed the symptoms of patients who have Parkinson’s after they were given cannabidiol. They inhaled the cannabis extract and reported their experiences. One study was lead by M.D. Maureen A. Leehey, also Professor of Neurology and Chief of the Movement Disorders Division at the University of Colorado in Aurora. She and her colleagues carried out an open label and dose escalation phase two study to assess the tolerability and safety of CBD or cannabidiol in Parkinson’s patients. The CBD they chose was Epidiolex. They also studied the secondary effectiveness measures, such as changes in cognition, psychosis, tremor, anxiety, sleep, mood, daytime sleepiness, pain and fatigue.
Leehey and her team studied thirteen patients over a period of thirty one days. They were given different doses, ranging from 5 to 20mg per kilogram of bodyweight. The doses were increased during the entire course. Only ten patients completed the whole course and their experiences were recorded for extensive analysis. Some patients reported experiencing mild fatigue, moderate diarrhea, dizziness, somnolence and increased liver enzymes. Three patients could not tolerate cannabidiol. One patient turned out to have an allergic reaction and the other two patients reported having abdominal pain. But no serious side effect or severe reaction was observed.
Those who completed the course reported experiencing much less pain. They also had substantial relief from irritability. They reported less rigidity as well. While the findings are preliminary and the scope of the study was rather small, it is fair to infer that cannabidiol for Parkinson’s is well tolerated, it is safe and there are no severe side effects. The positive effects are also noteworthy, given it is still unclear what the perfect dosage is for a specific state of Parkinson’s. The same team of researchers is now planning a larger study including a crossover, randomized and double blind approach.
The second noteworthy study was conducted by N.D. PhD. Laurie K. Mischley, an Associate Clinical Investigator at Bastyr University Research Institute in Kenmore, Washington. She and her colleagues studied the effects of inhaled cannabis in patients having Parkinson’s disease tremors. Motion sensors were used to detect tremors. Qualitative interviews followed for individual assessments. The subjects wore movement monitors for a fortnight while using cannabis and penned down their experiences in journals.
Sensors were used to record the amplitude and frequency of tremors when the subjects were awake. The patients pressed the motion sensor button whenever they used the cannabis so specific observations could be recorded. The team of researchers studied and compared the magnitude and duration of tremors during the hour leading to inhaling cannabis and for an hour after. After the fortnight, the interviews were conducted using standard and open ended questions that were designed not to lead to expected answers.
The researchers found that all patients experienced fewer tremors. The magnitude of tremors was also much more moderate. Some patients reported a significant reduction in the frequency of tremors. The experts concluded that while there may be a possibility of some minor tremors going undetected by the sensors and even unfelt by the patients, the fact that cannabis works to contain the frequency and magnitude of tremors is great news.
With two scientific studies focusing on patients suffering from Parkinson’s having revealed the potential effects and the proven impact of cannabis and cannabidiol, there should be more research and people as well as healthcare experts should be encouraged to try cannabis extracts or cannabidiol oil for therapies designed for Parkinson’s disease. The specific effects of cannabidiol for an individual patient suffering from Parkinson’s will obviously vary but if there is even a moderate reduction in tremors and other symptoms, then it is unquestionably useful and desirable.