Effects of Cannabis on MND/ALS

Effects of Cannabis on ALS

Cannabis has long been determined to be beneficial in slowing ALS’s progression and offering relief from its associated symptoms. Preclinical studies indicate that cannabinoids found in cannabis, including the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), have antioxidative, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
Numerous animal trials have demonstrated that the administration of cannabinoids in cannabis can delay the onset of ALS, prolong the survival of neurons and slow the disease’s progression (Bilsland, et al., 2006) (Carter, Abood, Aggarwal & Weiss, 2010) (Raman, et al., 2004). Cannabinol (CBD), another cannabinoid found in cannabis, but one that doesn’t have psychoactive effects, has also been found to significantly slow the onset of ALS (Weydt, et al., 2005).

Cannabis can also help ALS patients manage the pain, appetite loss, depression, sleeping problems, spasticity and drooling symptoms associated with the disease (Amtmann, et al., 2004) (Carter, Abood, Aggarwal & Weiss, 2010).
Cannabis combats ALS-associated pain because of its analgesia and anti-inflammatory effects, manages spasticity with its muscle-relaxing properties. Because of its appetite stimulating effects, it helps prevent the wasting that can occur in the final stages of ALS (Carter, Abood, Aggarwal & Weiss, 2010).

Significant advances have increased our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), yet this has not translated into any greatly effective therapies. It appears that a number of abnormal physiological processes occur simultaneously in this devastating disease.

Ideally, a multidrug regimen, including glutamate antagonists, antioxidants, a centrally acting anti-inflammatory agent, microglial cell modulators (including tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha] inhibitors), an antiapoptotic agent, 1 or more neurotrophic growth factors, and a mitochondrial function-enhancing agent would be required to comprehensively address the known pathophysiology of ALS.
Remarkably, cannabis appears to have activity in all of those areas. Preclinical data indicate that cannabis has powerful antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.

In the G93A-SOD1 ALS mouse, this has translated to prolonged neuronal cell survival, delayed onset, and slower progression of the disease.
Cannabis also has properties applicable to symptom management of ALS, including analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction.

With respect to the treatment of ALS, from both a disease modifying and symptom management viewpoint, clinical trials with cannabis are the next logical step.
Based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.
Carter, 2010

Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on ALS

  • Marijuana-like compounds can block the spread of HIV virus throughout the body during infection’s late stages.
    Cannabinoid Receptor 2-Mediated Attentuation of CXCR4-Tropic HIV Infection in Primary CD4+ T Cells
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309010/)
  • Cannabis found to prolong neuron cell survival, delay the onset of ALS and slow the progression of the disease.
    Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials.
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20439484)
  • Marijuana was moderately effective at reducing symptoms of pain, appetite loss, depression and drooling symptoms associated with the disease.
    Survey of cannabis use in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15055508)
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