Feb 23, 2017 12:10 PM

Cannabis Helps ALS Patients: Scientific Findings and Anecdotal Evidence

In the U.S., amyotrophic lateral sclerosis annually afflicts 5,000 people aged 30-60 years. The exact reasons for this illness are unidentified, and there is no effective cure for ALS that could reverse its effects on the patient's body. Fortunately, cannabis seems to be a good solution to this problem by extending the lives of ALS patients.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also called Lou Gehrig's disease in honor of a former Yankees baseball star who was diagnosed with this rare condition in 1939 and died two years later. This fatal illness destroys the spinal cord and the neurons in the brain that control movements making patients unable to coordinate their motor activity.

ALS is an extremely progressive disease. Most people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis live from two to five years. However, less severe forms of this disorder allow patients to live longer. The first symptoms of ALS are similar to many other disorders, so doctors can only come up with this diagnosis when patients begin to experience physical disabilities.

How can medical marijuana help with… Lou Gehrig's Disease?
How can medical marijuana help with… Lou Gehrig's Disease?
Lou Gehrig's Disease is a common term for what is called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

The most common symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are difficulties with moving, walking, speaking, and chewing. Besides, patients have chronic fatigue, pain and stiffness in muscles, as well as experience unstable mental conditions.

Scientific Findings

Conducting an animal study, Californian researchers have found that marijuana compounds that cooperate with the human endocannabinoid system can relieve ALS symptoms.

A 2010 study showed that cannabis compounds had antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory effects. The researchers concluded that those effects might be useful in improving severe symptoms of ALS.

A human-based study supported by PeopleLikeMe, Inc. examined 48 ALS patients who used cannabis for medical purposes. During the study, researchers conducted a trial treatment of 27 patients with ALS using the synthetic THC dronabinol. The findings showed that dronabinol did not provide a significant effect on the cramps. This study was criticized for using THC as the only cannabis compound for treating ALS.

In addition, a 2004 survey questioned 131 ALS patients, 13 of which reported consuming cannabis for improving their condition. They said that cannabis improved their state and made their daily routine more bearable.

Anecdotal evidence

Though ALS is considered a fatal disease, some distinguished people manage to live with this condition.

For instance, Stephen Hawking, an English theoretical physicist, was diagnosed with ALS shortly after his twenty-first birthday. Now, he has been living with this disease for over 50 years.

Bob Strider has always been a cannabis advocate, so when he began to experience symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1998, he used weed to manage his condition. Now, Strider has been living with ALS for 17 years and believes that marijuana slows the progression of his illness.

Cathy Jordan has had ALS for more than 28 years, but she is sure that marijuana is saving her life. All her doctors have already finished their practices or passed away, but Jordan is still successfully combating the damaging effects of ALS with cannabis.

How Does Cannabis Help ALS Patients?

As new human studies were limited in their scope, the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine summarized the possible effects of marijuana use for people with ALS based on the previous investigations. Here are some of them.

  • Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects reduce pain.
  • Muscle relaxation limits spasticity.
  • Appetite stimulation prevents anorexia.
  • Neuroprotective antioxidant saves neuron cells.
  • Euphoric effect elevates depressive mood.
  • Bronchodilation manages dyspnea.
  • Dry mouth reduces drooling.
  • THC provides mild vasodilating effects that improve vegetative dystonia.

Long-Term and Short-Term Effects of Marijuana on Men and Women
Long-Term and Short-Term Effects of Marijuana on Men and Women
When scientists talk about cannabis effects, they usually do not pay much attention to the difference between how marijuana affects men and women. And there is a difference to be sure. Today, MJWellness will tell you about how exactly men's marijuana experience may differ from the one of a woman.

What Cannabis Strains Treat ALS?

Fortunately, ALS has already been included in the qualifying list for medical marijuana in some states. However, lack of large-scale clinical trials of cannabis for this disease does not allow recommending certain weed strains with a degree of certainty.

Thus, MMJ doctors and patients have to explore the effects of different pot products for treating the symptoms of ALS.

Here are some cannabis strains high in THC that are thought to be effective for neuropathic pain and muscle cramps:

Though CBD strains do not provide any psychoactive effect, they are found to be a great option for new cannabis users. Moreover, CBD is an effective neuroprotective antioxidant that saves neuron cells that are dying because of ALS.

Hopefully, further profound studies will give researchers more answers when it comes to helping ALS patients overcome the symptoms of this disease with the help of cannabis.

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