Lou Gehrig's Disease is a common term for what is called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It is basically a brain disorder involving death of brain cells (neurons). ALS is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to complete muscle atrophy. As the condition progresses, the patient finds it it hard to control his or her limbs, speak, swallow, and eventually breathe. At later stages of the disease patients may become totally paralyzed, and 90% of Lou Gehrig's disease cases result in death.
According to the ALS Association, the international organization for ALS aid and research, Lou Gehrig’s disease afflicts more than 5 000 Americans every year. Average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with ALS is three to five years; however, some people manage to battle the disease for decades – the most prominent example is Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist who was diagnosed at the age of 21, but nevertheless managed to live with his condition for more than 50 years and make a brilliant career.
Currently, there is no cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and no treatment method is reported to reverse the disease’s effects on the body. The only FDA approved drug to treat Lou Gehrig's disease is riluzole (Rilutek), which delays the onset of ventilator-dependence or tracheostomy, but it can only extend life expectancy for not more than two months. However, a recent research conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center (San Francisco), and approved by the ALS Association, shows that THC contained in medical marijuana can significantly slow the disease progression and extends the patient’s life prognosis for three years or more. The same research group claims that THC can also alleviate muscle spasms – the most distinctive symptom of ALS. Thus, medical marijuana can be an effective way to alleviate some Lou Gehrig's disease symptoms, slow the disease process and extend the lives of patients.