Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and motor neurone disease, is one of the most common motor neuron diseases. ALS is degenerative and it affects the motor neurons of the body. This leads to symptoms such as muscle spasticity, muscle atrophy, and difficulty with speaking, swallowing, and even breathing
ALS currently has no known cure, but there are therapies and management options that have varying degrees of success. Medicinal marijuana is one very promising area of research that deserves a lot more attention. Let’s take a look at what the scientific literature has to say about it.
The Self-Reported Results of ALS Patients
A 2004 study, which was published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, asked ALS patients to anonymously report their cannabis use and its effect on their condition. The sample sizes were small, but the results showed some of the first hints that cannabis had great symptom management and therapeutic properties.
Patients reported that cannabis use helped to alleviate pain, muscle spasticity, loss of appetite, and drooling. It was also reported that cannabis was a great tool for combatting the depression that many patients felt as a result of their ALS.
A Series of Studies on Mice
Another 2004 study, this time out of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders, involved the treatment of ALS mice with THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. THC proved to be an effective treatment when administered both before and after the mice began to show symptoms.
A 2005 study out of the same journal, which unfortunately assumed that the mind-altering effects of THC compromised its therapeutic usefulness, looked instead to a marijuana compound known as cannabinol (CBD). While overlooking THC for what many people would consider to be the wrong reasons, it allowed the researchers to see that CBD also significantly delayed the onset of ALS in mice.
Yet a third study, carried out in 2006, once again looked at cannabis and ALS mice. It was confirmed that the brain’s cannabinoid receptors play a crucial role in diseases such as ALS, and researchers concluded that cannabinoids (such as those found in cannabis) can have a significantly positive effect when it comes to both the onset and progression of ALS.
A Call for Clinical Trials in Humans
More recently, a 2010 study, again from the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, called for clinical trials such as those that had been previously done on mice to be done on humans. The paper argues that it is high time to take what has been learned from previous studies and put it to use helping the actual human beings who are living with and suffering from ALS.
Unfortunately, such research has been difficult to carry out due to the current laws around the world which classify marijuana as an illegal substance with no medicinal benefit. Based on the studies described above, this could not be further from the truth.