Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly. The disease kills neurons responsible for controlling voluntary muscles, eventually leading to death. There is no cure and no comfortable treatment. However, studies show marijuana effectively slowing disease progression, as well as relieving the devastating symptoms associated with this condition.
Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS specifically affects nerve cells within the motor cortex, spinal cord, and brain. These same neurons control voluntary muscle movement throughout various parts of the body. Since the disease starves brain neurons of nourishment, ultimately causing their death, the brain can no longer communicate with or control muscles.
Eventually, sufferers lose voluntary movement, gradually losing all ability to eat, talk, and even breathe. The recent Ice Bucket Challenge attracted huge attention to this disease, raising money to fund research in the process. Its cause remains a mystery, but scientists are finding links between the environment, genetics, and ALS development.
There are two types of ALS, being familial and sporadic. According to the ALS Association, familial ALS, the inherited form of the disease, accounts for between 5 percent and 10 percent of all cases in the United States. Sporadic ALS accounts for all the other 90 to 95 percent of cases and is unquestionably the most common type. ALS strikes men more than it does women, and between 40- and 70-years old.
Since there is no cure for the disease, research is frantic and ongoing. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke puts life expectancy between three and five years from the start of symptoms, with most dying from respiratory failure within that timeframe. Treatment involves slowing neuron damage and ultimately disease progression, but there is no way of stopping it altogether. Conventional drugs, such as Riluzole, prolong life for just several months and do not fix the damage done.
What Science Says
With the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge for research, scientists identified NEK1 as being a primary genetic factor for ALS. NEK1 is the gene responsible for maintaining a cell’s cytoskeleton, which is what shapes neurons. According to a study of a Belgian cohort of ALS patients published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the team identified NEK1 in three percent of inherited and sporadic cases.
Along with determining potential causes of ALS, scientists are in the research stages of developing drugs to slow the progression or even treat symptoms effectively. Currently, researchers are exploring the use of cannabis as an option for ALS patients. A study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine analyzed the potential cannabinoids to reduce both oxidative and excitotoxicity cell damage.
This underscores two main hypotheses regarding the vulnerability of motor neurons and their susceptibility to these types of damage to cells. The study found cannabinoids notably delaying motor impairment in mice, as well as prolonging their survival. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has both anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, both essential to treating ALS and its symptoms.
A 2006 study found the “spinal cords of ALS patients demonstrating motor neuron damage marked by CB2-positive microglia/macrophages. Moreover, a recent study analyzing activated microglia from the spinal cord in human ALS patients demonstrated a CB2 receptor increase. So all this new data shows how editing CB2-mediated processes could change ALS progression, and how much the endocannabinoid system is potentially involved in reducing neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, and oxidative cell damage.” This is all incredibly promising news that bodes well for future ALS treatment.
Other Benefits of Cannabis for ALS
That is not all, however. There is much more. Not only does marijuana offer a new therapeutic pathway for slowing ALS progression and protecting neuron health, it can help to relieve the debilitating symptoms associated with the disease. Although Riluzole helps some patients somewhat, it comes with its own side effects. Fortunately, many, many studies show cannabis relieving the worst of them:
The analgesic properties of cannabinoids are legendary and widespread knowledge already, with an abundance of research to prove it. Marijuana can effectively relieve all types of pain, even the worst of it, such as the pain suffered by ALS patients.
THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, both have antispasmodic and muscle-relaxant properties. For ALS patients, this is especially important, as the muscle spasms can be intense, long lasting, and very limiting. Cannabis can relax the muscles enough to stop even the most severe muscular spasms and spasticity.
ALS patients struggle to keep food down, especially as they start losing muscle control of eating processing. Many give up and stop trying. Marijuana is famous for its “munchies,” a common side effect that leaves users ravenous. It can stimulate appetite and slow the wasting associated with ALS.
This is a disease painful and spasmodic enough to keep patients awake. Insomnia is a real problem, as is fatigue. Cannabis, particularly potent Indica strains, is notoriously tranquilizing; helping even the worst cases of insomnia gets some sleep. It numbs pain, stops spasticity, and is powerfully sedating.
ALS patients suffer extreme mood swings and mental challenges. They are often depressed, anxious, even outright terrified. The disease has an extremely emotional and mental toll on patients. Cannabis is famously uplifting, capable of elevating mood and relieving associated mental problems.
Breathing gets very difficult for those with advanced ALS. As the respiratory tract shuts down, patients struggle for every breath. Marijuana has bronchodilation properties, capable of opening the airways and making breathing easier for longer.
Drooling becomes a problem for many ALS patients. The body produces saliva, but there is no muscular ability to swallow it properly. Cannabinoids can reduce the production of excess saliva, effectively slowing drooling. It is also expectorant, able to thin and loosen mucus, further helping in this regard.
Visit a Vacaville Dispensary
If you or a loved one is suffering ALS, then cannabis can help. Clearly. Discuss treatment with your doctor before visiting marijuana dispensaries Vacaville, but while Riluzole protects brain cells and helps control symptoms, it promises a range of side effects all its own. Marijuana can relieve these side effects and help ensure a more promising outcome, without any of the side effects of prescription drugs.
Doctors commonly prescribe medications to treat the side effects of Riluzole, but tranquilizers, antidepressants, antispasmodics, anxiolytics, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics are notoriously addictive and dangerous themselves. Cannabis is safe, effective, and compatible with ALS treatment. Just ensure you get only quality medical-grade when you order from a Vacaville dispensary.