Parkinson’s Disease (PD) mainly affects people over 60 years of age, as it is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with symptoms appearing slowly over time. The most common symptoms are tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face with depression, difficulty speaking and skin problems occurring frequently.
Levodopa, developed in the late ’60s, remains the most common long-term prescription drug used to treat PD. It is very effective but has multiple side effects the most common being nausea and dyskinesia (impaired voluntary movements). Other side effects include dizziness, constipation, insomnia, numbness and mental changes including delayed cognitive processing, depression, impulsive gambling and thoughts of suicide.
Levodopa’s effectiveness begins to wear off after five years and many find it no longer effective after 10 to 15 years of persistent daily use. There are few other drugs that effectively treat PD, so when Levodopa is no longer effective many patients turn to a surgical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).
Using a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device that delivers a continuous electrical stimulation to targeted areas of the brain, DBS disrupts the neurotransmissions that are the source of the disabling motor symptoms of PD. The negative consequences of implanting electrical devices in the brain is axiomatic.
“The ability of the age-old medicine cannabis to mitigate Parkinson’s and other movement disorders has been known for a long time dating back to 1839 when medical cannabis pioneer Dr. William B. O’Shaughnessy penned that cannabis is “an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value.”
With America’s population of people over 65 growing from about 45 million in 2015 to a projected 55 million in 2020, there has to be a better way to treat this common ailment of the elderly.
It just so happens there is, and it is nothing new under the sun. The ability of the age-old medicine cannabis to mitigate Parkinson’s and other movement disorders has been known for a long time dating back to 1839 when medical cannabis pioneer Dr. William B. O’Shaughnessy penned that cannabis is “an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value.”
A study published in the European Journal of Pain in October 2016 confirmed Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s much earlier and correct conclusion reporting that “Cannabis improved motor scores and pain symptoms in PD patients.” This new study at Tel Aviv University confirmed a March 2014 study at the same university that found “significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinsea (slowness of movement). There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores.”
Most significantly the study concluded that “No significant adverse effects of the drug were observed,” and it provided this “significant improvement” in just 30 minutes. Levodopa put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to a dysfunction in the body’s dopamine system. Research has demonstrated that our endocannabinoid neurotransmission system modulates dopamine transmission. Cannabis is effective in treating PD tremors and other movement disorders because it provides the dopamine modulating cannabinoids needed by the profusion of cannabinoid receptors located in the basal ganglia, the area of the brain that regulates body movement.
PD is also caused by oxidative stress where our bodies produce more free radicals than we need for life processes such as digestion and immunity. These “excess” free radicals, produced in response to everything from emotional stress to pollution to chlorinated water, have been linked to a host of human ailments from aging to cancer to PD.
Cannabinoids are able to protect neurons from oxidative stress so effectively that in 2001 the U.S. government filed for and received U.S. Patent 6630507 entitled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.” In applying for the patent, the U.S. Government wrote: “The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
Even though our federal government has been paralyzed by “Reefer Madness” for the last 80 years, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, holder of patent 6630507, by default recognizes the enormous potential for protecting the brain and central nervous system from the damage that can lead to PD and other movement disorders.