By Emily Ledger
Medical cannabis research is at an all-time high, with many trials yielding promising results for a number of conditions and diseases. Research into medical cannabis use for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease has been ongoing, with a recent survey showing that patients report cannabis as an effective method to manage symptoms of the condition.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, is believed to be the largest study analysing patient’s views on cannabis therapy for Parkinson’s Disease. Participants were recruited from around Germany using the membership journal of the German Parkinson Association.
Medical cannabis as a therapy option for Parkinson’s Disease was approved in Germany in 2017. The medicine may be prescribed to patients with severe symptoms associated with the condition when other treatment options have failed or caused too much discomfort/side effects.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease affects certain nerve cells in the brain, causing them to break down or die. The loss of neurons that create Dopamine, is the cause of many of the symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of Parkinson’s can include tremors, stiffness and loss of movement.
Other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s may include dementia, fatigue, disturbed sleep, and depression.
Studies suggest that the physical manifestations of Parkinson’s are actually the late stages of an evolving multi-system disorder. The National Parkinson’s Foundation suggests that motor symptoms of Parkinson’s (PD) only begin to manifest when the majority of the brain’s dopamine-producing cells are already damaged.
Therefore, the earlier PD is diagnosed the higher the chances are of slowing the progression of the disease.
The Patient Survey
Researchers designed a questionnaire to be distributed via issues of the German Parkinson’s Association’s journal from March 2019. The questionnaire was also distributed to patients who visited their movement disorder outpatient clinic from March 4 to April 21, 2019.
A total of 1348 responses were analysed for use in the study. The mean age of all participants was 71.6 years, and the mean disease duration was 11.6 years. Of the respondents, 15% reported being cannabis users. Of the cannabis users, 13.9% recorded regular use, 32.2% were occasional users, and 42.6% had tried it once.
Overall, 54% of self-reported cannabis users reported a clinical benefit to medical cannabis use. This was, on average, higher in more frequent users (79%) than in occasional (67%) and one-time users (25%).
Furthermore, over half of those who had used cannabis reported that it was more effective than levodopa (Parkinson’s medication) and dopamine agonists at improving symptoms associated with the condition. A further 23% considered medical cannabis to be as effective as alternative treatments.