Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare disease in which specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord slowly die. The disease affects motor neurons, which are responsible for controlling the muscles that allow you to move the various parts of your body.
Those afflicted with ALS gradually become more disabled as the disease progresses over time. ALS makes it hard to walk, speak, eat, swallow, and even breathe. These problems can lead to injury, illness, and eventually death. In most cases, death will occur within 3 to 5 years after symptoms begin, although some people do live for many years, even decades. Unfortunately, doctors have not been able to determine the cause of ALS, and studies have not suggested that the disease is hereditary. Currently there is no cure for ALS and conventional treatment options are limited.
Using Cannabis to Treat ALS
Cannabis is a complex medicinal plant that may actually be used to treat a variety of debilitating symptoms caused by a surprisingly large number of ailments. It’s usefulness as a non-lethal medicine (you cannot die from an overdose of cannabis) cannot be overstated and it’s versatility in terms of how it can be consumed and as to how it can be useful for so many illnesses is something to be excited about. However, it is important to remember that consulting with your primary care physician should be your first priority when considering incorporating cannabis into one’s medical regiment and that cannabis is to be used as an adjunct therapy and not a replacement. It is also your responsibility to communicate with your doctor as to how your use of cannabis has affected your health and of your progress with utilizing medical cannabis.
With that said, exciting studies have shown that cannabis may be quite useful for treating individuals suffering from ALS for the following reasons: slowing disease progression; protecting the sufferer’s nerves from further degradation; significantly reducing pain caused by the disease; relieving anxiety; appetite stimulation to combat appetite loss; elevating one’s mood to combat depression; assisting with uncontrollable drooling.
FINDINGS: EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON ALS
Cannabis has long been determined to be beneficial in slowing ALS’s progression and offering relief from its associated symptoms. Preclinical studies indicate that cannabinoids found in cannabis, including the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have antioxidative, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Numerous animal trials have demonstrated that the administration of cannabinoids in cannabis can delay the onset of ALS, prolong the survival of neurons and slow the disease’s progression.
Cannabis can also help ALS patients manage the pain, appetite loss, depression, sleeping problems, spasticity and drooling symptoms associated with the disease. Cannabis combats ALS-associated pain because of its analgesia and anti-inflammatory effects, and manages spasticity with its muscle-relaxing properties. Because of its appetite stimulating effects, it helps prevent the wasting that can occur in the final stages of ALS.
STATES THAT HAVE APPROVED MEDICAL CANNABIS FOR ALS
Out of the 29 states that have adopted medical marijuana legislation, 19 have approved cannabis for treating ALS.
These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Several other states will allow medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of ALS, but require an approval or a recommendation by a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of cannabis has been recommended by a physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).
In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical cannabis as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenoids Useful for Treating ALS
The cannabis plant offers a plethora of therapeutic benefits and contains cannabinoids and terpenoid compounds that are useful for mitigating the debilitating symptoms of the disease. Scientific medical studies in both animal and human models, and surveys of ALS sufferers strongly suggest that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), and Cannabinol (CBN) are effective in combating the onset and development of ALS symptoms. Additionally, the following chart denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids work synergistically with each other for possible therapeutic benefit. It may be beneficial to seek out strains that contain these cannabinoids and terpenoids.
Americans For Safe Access Condition-based Booklets
These booklets summarize the history of medical cannabis and the recent research used to treat a variety of conditions, including Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Pain, Arthritis, Gastro-Intestinal Disorders, Movement Disorders, HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to Aging. (About Americans For Safe Access)
The therapeutic use of cannabis for treating muscle problems and movement disorders has been known to western medicine for nearly two centuries.
Article: "How to Qualify for Medical Cannabis in New Mexico"
Understanding Medical Cannabis.Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.
Cannabis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: hypothetical and practical applications, and a call for clinical trials.Carter, Gregory, et al.
American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 2010 Aug, 27(5): 347-356.
The endocannabinoid system in the inflammatory and neurodegenerative properties of multiple sclerosis and of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.Rossi, Silvia, et al.
Experimental Neurology, 2010 July, 224(1): 92-102.
The endocannabinoid system in targeting inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases.Centonze, Diego, et al.
Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 2007 Apr, 28(4): 180-187.
The CB2 cannabinoid agonist AM-1241 prolongs survival in a transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when initiated at symptom onset.Shoemaker, Jennifer, et al.
Journal of Neurochemistry, 2007 Apr, 101(1): 97-98.
AM1241, a cannabinoid CB2 receptor selective compound, delays disease progression in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.Kim, Kathline, et al.
European Journal of Pharmacology, 2006 Aug, 542(1-3): 100-105.
Cannabinol delays symptom onset in SOD1 (G93A) transgenic mice without affecting survival.Weydt, Patrick, et al.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, 2005, 6(3): 182-184.
Survey of cannabis use in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.Amtmann, Dagmar, et al.
American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 2004 Mar, 21(2): 95-104.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: delayed disease progression in mice by treatment with a cannabinoid.Raman, Chandrasekran, et al.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, 2004, 5(1): 33-39.
Neuroprotection by delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active compound in marijuana, against oubain-induced in vivo excitotoxicity.van der Stelt, M, et al.
The Journal of Neuroscience, 2001 Sep 1, 21(17): 6475-6479.