The month of April is all about raising awareness about Parkinson's Disease (PD). In addition, there is International Parkinson's Awareness Week, April 8-14, and Parkinson's Awareness Day on April 10. It is the 2nd most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's Disease and the most common movement disorder, both related to aging. It is characterized by tremors at rest, muscle rigidity, stooped posture, the slowing of voluntary movements and facial freezing. The PD prescription medications have many adverse side effects and they stop working after a period of time. In desperation, many PD patients are turning to medical cannabis to control their symptoms. This article features a medical cannabis doctor, Dr. Rachna Patel, who works with PD patients, the experiences of her patients who use it, a 2004 study and a miraculous video of a patient who uses medical cannabis oil for the first time.
PD is a progressive neurological disorder in which the dopamine-producing neurons in the brain die. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which facilitates the transmission of messages from neurons in the brain to the muscles in the body. Without enough dopamine neurons, symptoms of PD may occur. It typically begins with symptoms that mimic several other diseases. It is often misdiagnosed for many months until the symptoms worsen. In addition to the disruption of fine and gross motor skills, characteristic of the disease, other symptoms include:
- Bradykinesia; slow movement and an impaired ability to move
- Difficulty swallowing
- Low blood pressure
- Anxiety and depression
- Memory loss, confusion, stress and tension
- Sexual dysfunction
Secondary Symptoms Include:
- Dystonia; involuntary muscle contractions leading to cramping, unusual posture or body position
- Micrographia; increasingly smaller handwriting
- Freezing Movements; unable to move forward with the first step
- Speech Changes; softer voice or slurred speech
- Acceleration problems; movements are sped up and are difficult to control
Its origins are not fully understood but it is thought that there are several possible factors; genetic predispositon, post-infection, medication-induced, and the result of inflammatory and post-traumatic conditions. There currently is no cure and the 2 most common medications Levodopa/Carbidopa have many serious side effects which include; dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams and headaches.
Dr. Rachna Patel
Meet Dr. Rachna Patel, a doctor who opened her California based practice to medical cannabis patients in 2014 after studying its potential benefits for 2 years. She graduated from Northwestern University (IL) and Touro University (CA). You can find her regular videos online on YouTube, Ask Dr. Patel. She addresses questions about her experiences prescribing medical cannabis. Here is her video about Parkinson's Disease.
Here are her observations of the effects of medical cannabis in controlling the symptoms of her PD patients:
- Pain levels reduced from severe to mild
- Reduction in the frequency of tremors
- Reduction in the duration of tremors
- Reduction in the severity of tremors
- Reduction in the dosages of PD drugs
With PD there is a never ending cycle of tremors and muscle rigidity/stiffness:
- After days or weeks, tremors fade away and manifest as muscle rigidity/stiffness which fades away and manifests as tremors in other parts of the body
- Those who use medical cannabis on a regular basis report that it reduces the severity of tremors which stops them from progressing to muscle rigidity/stiffness
In a 2004 Czech study, Survey of Cannabis use in Parkinson's Disease: Subjective Improvement of Motor Symptoms, 339 PD patients were asked to answer a survey anonymously. Researchers, Dr K & R Venderova, and Viktor and Peter Visnovsky, created the questionnaire which was presented to participants at the Prague Movement Disorder. The participants continued to use PD prescription medications during the study.
Here are the results:
- 45.9% reported a mild to substantial relief in symptoms
- 30.6% reported improvement in resting tremors
- 44.7% reported improvement in bradykinesia
- 37.7% reported improvement in muscle rigidity/muscle resistant movement
- 14.1% reported improvement in dyskinesia; involuntary movements characterized by fidgeting, writhing, wriggling, head bobbing, swaying and rocking
The mean age of participants was about 64 years old and the duration of their PD was for about 9 years. Those who experienced the most relief were those who used cannabis for a consistent period which lasted at least 3 months. The longer they used it, the more benefits they experienced.
Here is a video of a man with severe PD symptoms who has never used medical cannabis. The reduction in his symptoms is remarkable.
Source: medicalmarijuanadoctors.com, Medical Marijuana For Parkinson’s Disease, Dr Richard Koffler, January 28, 2019
Venderova, Katerina & Růžička, Evžen & Vorisek, Viktor & Peter Višňovský MD, PhD. (2004). Survey on Cannabis use in Parkinson's disease: Subjective improvement of motor symptoms. Movement Disorders. 19. 1102 - 1106. 10.1002/mds.20111