Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurological disorder that’s primarily characterized by symptoms affecting the motor system, including tremors, slowed movement, spontaneous muscle contractions and jaw stiffness. It’s a progressive disease that typically becomes worse over time. In the later stages of Parkinson’s, psychological symptoms like anxiety and poor memory may also manifest.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s. In the last 50 years, scientists have made breakthrough discoveries regarding the disease and how it affects the brain, but they’ve yet to find a cure. There are, however, treatment options available for Parkinson’s, including medical marijuana.
How Common is Parkinson’s?
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF), Parkinson’s affects roughly one million people in the United States and 10 million people worldwide. This makes it the second most common neurological disorder, only behind Alzheimer’s.
Parkinson’s is more common among older adults, with a mean onset of symptoms occurring around 60 years of age. Only about four percent of Parkinson’s cases occur in individuals younger than 50.
While Parkinson’s affects about men and women, it’s more common among men. Statistics show that men have a 150 percent higher risk of developing the disease than women.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
Symptoms of Parkinson’s typically don’t manifest until age 50. And as previously mentioned, they usually become progressively worse. Symptoms may begin with mild tremors and muscle stiffness, only to progress to more severe symptoms.
Studies show that nearly seven in 10 Parkinson’s patients will experience tremors, making it the most common symptom of this disease. Initially, tremors may begin as a mild twitching of the finger or hand, which usually occurs when the individual isn’t moving. Over time, however, tremors can become more frequent and active.
While most Parkinson’s symptoms are associated with the motor system, this disease can trigger a plethora of other symptoms as well. Parkinson’s patients may experience changes in their speech, difficulty swallowing, imbalanced posture, freezing movements and impaired memory.
How Parkinson’s is Treated
There’s hope on the horizon for the millions of men and women who suffer from Parkinson’s. One common treatment option for the disease involves the use of dopamine-boosting medication. Because Parkinson’s causes low levels of dopamine, healthcare practitioners often recommend drugs such as antidepressants to restore and increase dopamine in the brain.
The effectiveness of dopamine-boosting drugs for treating Parkinson’s, however, relies heavily on the patient’s ability to take the medication according to schedule. If a dose is missed, it could further disturb the patient’s dopamine levels. Being that memory loss is a symptom of Parkinson’s, patients often miss doses or otherwise don’t take their medication according to schedule.
To make matters worse, traditional medication such as this carries a risk of many short- and long-term side effects.
Medical Marijuana for Parkinson’s
In recent years, medical marijuana has become an increasingly popular form of treatment for Parkinson’s. Whether used alone or in conjunction with other medication, it’s proven highly effective at improving the quality of life for Parkinson’s patients.
According to a 2004 study, medical marijuana reduced the symptoms of the disease in 46 percent of Parkinson’s patients. Additionally, 45 percent experienced improvements in slowed movement (bradykinesia), and 30 percent experienced fewer tremors.
So, how exactly does medical marijuana offer relief of Parkinson’s? The benefits of this natural plant can be attributed to its cannabinoids. Marijuana has more than 60 types of cannabinoids, some of which facilitate the production of dopamine. And by boosting the production of dopamine, marijuana counters the effects of Parkinson’s.
The benefits of medical marijuana for Parkinson’s don’t end there. Marijuana can also stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, reduce anxiety and improve sleeping habits. Even if it’s not used a primary treatment, medical marijuana can be used a secondary medication to counter the side effects of other drugs.
Of the 28 states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana, 10 list Parkinson’s as a disease that can be treated with the plant. These states include Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Maine.
If you or someone you know suffers from Parkinson’s, call our Boca Raton Medical Marijuana Doctor today to pre-qualify for our high-grade medical cannabis.