Michael J Fox brought attention to Parkinson’s at his recent appearance at the BAFTA awards.  But what about Parkinson’s Disease and Medical Marijuana

Parkinson’s disease is one of the worst things to happen to a person. Ultimately, an active mind will be trapped in a non-functioning body. Along with the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, many people with the diagnosis also experience psychosis, which begins with mild symptoms. This mental side of Parkinson’s can start with confusion and progress to include hallucinations and dementia. Michael J. Fox, the actor, is one of the most famous faces of the disease. The actor received a standing ovation during a surprise appearance at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) Sunday. But what about Parkinson’s disease and medical marijuana.

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Long an advocate for more research and discovering treatments to help patients, Fox has been a leader in the field.  His Foundation has shared research to date lacks the data to prove benefits or safety. Thus, doctors don’t have strong evidence to guide recommendations on what to use or how to truly help patients. Still, many people are interested in trying this therapy. In 2020, The Michael J. Fox Foundation convened a workshop on medical marijuana with field leaders and other Parkinson’s organizations.

The limited amount of true research completed has had mixed or conflicting results (some positive, some negative). On questionnaires, people often report benefit on pain, sleep, mood, or motor symptoms such as tremor or stiffness. But many also report side effects. This leaves patients, doctors and researchers with insufficient evidence to guide use.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. In limited studies, THC has shown to improve both activity and hand-eye coordination in an animal model. A clinical study of 22 patients with the Parkenson’s and smoking marijuana, resulted in improvement of motor symptoms such as bradykinesia, resting tremor, rigidity, and posture, along with with non-motor symptoms such as sleep and pain.

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Cannabis has been used for hundreds of years for pain relief, improving sleep and for other purposes, there is still very little evidence regarding its efficacy and safety. Parkinson’s Europe is more positive toward research and information. They note many clinical studies into cannabis as a Parkinson’s treatment have been hampered by regulatory restrictions or have had various shortcomings.

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