Parkinson's disease and medical marijuana

Michael J Fox drew attention to Parkinson's during his recent appearance at the BAFTA Awards. But what about Parkinson's disease and medical marijuana?

Parkinson's disease is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Ultimately, an active mind will be trapped in a non-functioning body. In addition to the physical symptoms of Parkinson's disease, many people diagnosed also experience psychosis, which begins with mild symptoms. This mental side of Parkinson's disease can start with confusion and progress to hallucinations and dementia. Michael J. Fox, the actor, is one of the most famous faces of the disease. The actor received a standing ovation during a surprise appearance at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) on Sunday. But what about Parkinson's disease and medical marijuana?

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Fox has long been an advocate for more research and the discovery of treatments that help patients and is a leader in this field. His foundation said that previous research lacked data to demonstrate benefit or safety. Therefore, doctors do not have solid evidence to make recommendations about what to use or how to truly help patients. However, many people are interested in trying this therapy. In 2020, the Michael J. Fox Foundation hosted a medical marijuana workshop with industry leaders and other Parkinson's organizations.

The limited amount of actual research has produced mixed or contradictory results (some positive, some negative). In questionnaires, people often report benefits in pain, sleep, mood or motor symptoms such as tremors or stiffness. But many also report side effects. This results in patients, doctors and researchers not having enough evidence to support its use.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. In limited studies, THC has been shown to improve both activity and hand-eye coordination in an animal model. A clinical trial involving 22 Parkenson's patients and smoking marijuana resulted in improvement in motor symptoms such as bradykinesia, resting tremor, stiffness and posture, as well as non-motor symptoms such as sleep and pain.

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Cannabis has been used for hundreds of years to relieve pain, improve sleep, and other purposes. There is still very little evidence of its effectiveness and safety. Parkinson's Europe is more positive about research and information. They note that many clinical trials of cannabis as a Parkinson's treatment were hampered by regulatory restrictions or had various deficiencies.

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