In the Hollywood movie Love & Other Drugs, Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) gets a piece of advice to leave his sick girlfriend, Maggie (Anne Hathway), and find a healthy partner. She had Parkinson’s (Stage one). He did not leave her, and the movie ended on a happy note. Not because she got cured of Parkinson’s, but because they decided to face it together. To date, there has been no known cure for Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s is a nervous system disorder, also classified as a neurodegenerative disease. Dopamine-producing brain cells get damaged or die in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that performs many essential functions. It’s involved in reward, motivation, memory, attention, and regulating body movements. Parkinson’s disease causes unintended or uncontrollable movements of the body. It is both a chronic and progressive disease, meaning it persists over a long time, and its symptoms worsen over time. The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. Some cases are due to heredity, while others are due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Since the precise cause is unknown, the cure is also challenging to find.
Parkinson’s mainly affects people above 60 years of age. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 7-14 years. The prevalence of Parkinson’s is about 1.5 times higher in men as compared to women. As estimated in 2016, nearly 580,000 people in India have Parkinson’s. At present, the total population suffering from Parkinson’s disease stands at 10 million worldwide. The number of patients will go up with time as the population ages. The health care cost incurred due to this illness is mammoth. The direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s in the United States stands at US $ 52 billion per year.
Existing treatment and limitation
Anti-Parkinson’s medications (e.g., Levodopa) can help improve the movement-related symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, these medications are less effective. At the same time, the evidence for treating non-movement-related symptoms is weak. Anxiety, irritability, depression, sleep disturbance, and pain are some of the symptoms that remain untreated with the existing medications.
Scientific evidence suggests the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a role in neurodegenerative disease. The cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant bind to ECS receptors to maintain balance in the body. The conditions to manage Parkinson’s are both movement-related and non-movement-related. Published information suggests cannabis can help in managing both types of symptoms. A study conducted with 22 patients that involved smoking Cannabis revealed significant improvement in tremors. The study also concluded improvement in pain and sleep. Another published study concluded 54% of patients receiving clinical benefits from cannabis for Parkinson’s. Around 51% felt cannabis worked better than pharmaceutical medicines for condition improvement. Patients also reported that symptoms related to pain and muscle cramps improved.
Cannabis Leaf extract
Parkinson’s disease only degrades the quality of life in the longer run. The lack of cure leaves the patient with the only option of managing multiple health conditions. Medical Cannabis has become a viable option to manage movement-related conditions and non-movement-related conditions successfully. The next goal is to conduct more robust studies on a larger population to calibrate the proper dosage and intake mechanism for improving health conditions in Parkinson’s patients.
Parkinson’s Disease Information Page: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Parkinsons-Disease-Information-Page
10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine
Incidence of Parkinson’s disease: variation by age, gender, and race/ethnicity: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12777365/
Parkinson’s statistics: https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics
Genetic Architecture of Parkinson’s Disease in the Indian Population: Harnessing Genetic Diversity to Address Critical Gaps in Parkinson’s Disease Research: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2020.00524/full
Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease: an open-label observational study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24614667/
Cannabis Shown to Relieve Parkinson Disease Symptoms: https://www.ajmc.com/view/cannabis-shown-to-relieve-parkinson-disease-symptoms
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