Cannabis gains as treatment for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

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An expert weighs in on how cannabis can treat the debilitating diseases

Dr. Ethan Russo is a board-certified neurologist and the former Senior Medical Advisor of GW Pharmaceutics. He is now the Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) and is a leading authority on all things cannabis. As far as cannabis experts are concerned, Russo is at the top of the food chain and if asserts that cannabis can be used to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), it would be wise to listen.

In a recent interview with Forbes magazine, Russo sat down to discuss exactly how cannabis can help treat PD and AD. He explained that cannabis targets the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the body’s natural controls for regulating the nervous system. He added, “Clinical results with treatment of PD with cannabis have been quite mixed. Cannabidiol (CBD) helped a few PD patients with psychotic symptoms, and some with a rapid-eye movement sleep disorder. Observational studies with smoked cannabis, presumably high in THC, reportedly produced acute benefits on tremor, rigidity and slow movement (bradykinesia). The best results in PD were reported in a Czech study in 2004, in which patients ate raw leaves of cannabis for as much as three months and reported significant improvement in overall function, tremor, bradykinesia and rigidity, with few side effects.”

Regarding AD, cannabis could be even more revolutionary. Russo stated, “Both THC and CBD have been shown to interfere with the production of abnormal toxic matter in the brain of such patients. This is quite exciting, inasmuch as synthetic drugs designed for similar purposes have yet to advance in the clinic. Both THC and particularly CBD are known neuroprotective agents that hold the potential to slow or perhaps even halt the degenerative process. On the symptom side, THC as a single agent has proven beneficial in AD patients in reducing nocturnal agitation, improving sleep and appetite. Observations of nursing home patients in California with dementia have produced similar benefits as well as reducing the need for nursing intervention and amounts of other drugs.”

There is still a lot we don’t know about cannabis and how effective it can be. However, evidence is accumulating that shows it can be beneficial in combatting a number of ailments and is not just an option for pain relief. Being able to treat AD and PD with cannabis is life-changing and needs to be taken seriously.


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