FAQ : Cannabis and Parkinson’s

FAQ : Cannabis and Parkinson’s

Cannabis is a drug that comes from Indian hemp plants. It is used either as a recreational drug or a medicinal product. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two best known active compounds of the plant.
On one hand, THC binds with target receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria. It is psychoactive. On the other hand, CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to these brain receptors. As such, CBD doesn’t cause the euphoric effects that occur with THC. Moreover, CBD can interfere with the binding of THC and dampen the psychoactive effects.
These compounds are found in different percentages depending on the strains of the plant. They can also be purchased in different concentrations from authorized suppliers.

Cannabis has shown some neuroprotective properties in research labs. Unfortunately, these promising virtues did not hold true in humans.

NO – To date, there is no evidence that cannabis can improve motor symptoms (tremor, stiffness, slowness of movements). Dystonia (muscle spasms) and L-Dopa induced dyskinesia (abnormal, uncontrolled, involuntary movement) are not improved either.

Medical research has shown that neuropathic and muscular pain can be relieved with cannabis. However; these scientific studies have been conducted in patients with other neurodegenerative conditions, like Multiple Sclerosis. There is no such proof in patients with PD.

Cannabis may be helpful for insomnia, anxiety, nausea, appetite, restless legs syndrome, muscle cramps or spasms, REM behavior disorder (acting out dreams) and agitation. However; these indications only come from anecdotal patients reports. They are not backed up by scientific evidence. Therefore; they do not apply to the general population.

YES – Potential side effects include dizziness, low blood pressure, imbalance, falls, apathy (loss of motivation), abdominal pain (rare), memory loss, dry mouth and confusion. THC may be more likely to cause side effects such as paranoia, anxiety and confusion.
Apathy, detachment, blunted emotion and drives, and impaired executive functions like memory and attention are also associated with long-term effects of cannabis use.
So, side effects of cannabis share a common ground with the primary symptoms of Parkinson disease. Cannabis use may increase the severity of your disease symptoms.

YES – Cannabis interferes with the binding of your PD medications to its receptors. Hence, cannabis use may decrease the efficacy of your PD therapy. It may also slow down the release of psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants, and therefore; increase their potency.

NO – There is not enough evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabis or other cannabinoids are an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
This Q&A is published for informative purpose only. Parkinson Québec is released of all responsibilities for supervised and unsupervised cannabis use.

NO – There is no such thing as a prescription, unless you need medical marijuana, or similar products. However; marijuana consumption is not without risk. If you are considering using it for therapeutic or recreational use, we recommend that you discuss it with your physician. Your doctor will be able to give you an informed and personalized opinion taking into consideration your condition and specific health needs.

It depends on the symptom you are trying to treat. For focal pain or muscle soreness, you can start with creams or patches. For other symptoms, oral formulations like drops or candies work well. Smoking can produce a more rapid and reliable onset of effects but can also be associated with breathing issues.

For most symptoms, pure CBD products are best as CBD has less potential side effects. THC is more helpful for nausea and appetite. Many patients report better effects for products containing both CBD and THC so you may want to experiment with gradually adding more THC if you are not getting desired effects.

As with any other medication, starting with a low dose (half of whatever dispensary recommends) and going up slowly (e.g. try it at one dose for a week and then go up). Employees of dispensaries may assist you in product and dose selection.

Acknowledgements: This FAQ was developed through a partnership with the Movement Disorder Clinic of the University of Colorado Hospital.

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