Medical marijuana is now widely used to help treat a wide range of physical and mental conditions. For instance, research shows that medical marijuana can help patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

Treatments for Parkinson’s largely focus on alleviating the symptoms and helping patients live a better quality of life. Medical marijuana is now commonly used as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease due to its wide range of medical benefits.

What Is Parkinson’s & How Is It Treated?

Parkinson’s Disease, often shortened to Parkinson’s or PD, is a severe neurodegenerative condition that worsens over time. It’s caused by a loss of neurons in the brain, especially dopamine-producing cells in an area called the substantia nigra, which leads to problems with movement, balance, and accompanying symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue.

Illustration of Brain Parkinson's Disease

PD is particularly common for older people and most people who develop Parkinson’s will begin to notice symptoms once they’re over 50. However, it can affect younger people occasionally, and around 1 in 20 sufferers begins to show symptoms when they’re under 40.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over the course of years, and usually start with shaking, tremors and limb rigidity, though the progression of symptoms can be different from one person to another, reflecting the diversity of the disease. Slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and problems with gait and balance are also experienced. While the symptoms may seem subtle at first, Parkinson’s Disease worsens over time and can significantly impact movement, speech, mood, and cognition.

The causes of Parkinson’s remain largely unknown and the disease is incurable. Medications such as Levodopa (L-dopa), Carbidopa (Sinemet), Requip (ropinirole), Mirapex (pramipexole), Neupro (rotigotine) and others are often used to help with an array of issues, among them tremors, stiff movement, anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, these medications come with a long list of side effects ranging from nausea and insomnia to hallucinations and even compulsive addictions. Long-term exposure to dopamine medications can also cause hypersensitivity to dopamine, in turn leading to an impulse control disorder (ICD), a group of behaviors that includes gambling, uncontrollable shopping, compulsive eating, a sudden obsession with sex, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Aside from medication, deep brain stimulation is sometimes used to help PD patients with their movement. Medical marijuana has also become a common treatment due to its ability to safely and effectively help with many symptoms of Parkinson’s without the side effects often experienced in conventional treatments with pharmaceuticals.

Medical Marijuana & Parkinson’s Disease

Many patients with Parkinson’s Disease now use medical marijuana along with other treatments to help with their condition. Marijuana can help patients with stiff muscles and movement problems due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps produce more dopamine, an important chemical that Parkinson’s Disease patients have low levels of.

Research shows that medical marijuana can help alleviate many of the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. As well as boosting dopamine, cannabinoids also have antioxidant properties and can help protect neurons in the brain, which can potentially slow down the progression of symptoms.

How Medical Marijuana Helps with Parkinson’s Symptoms

In one study conducted at the Tel Aviv University in Israel (2017), 47 PD patients were observed. During a period of a few months, participants used medical marijuana and 82% reported improvement in their symptoms like stiffness and tremor. They also noticed an improvement in non-motor symptoms such as pain, mood, and sleep. In another study, Katerina Venderova (Movement Disorders Journal) conducted a survey of Parkinson’s disease patients on medical marijuana and reported the results of 339 respondents with PD:

  • 45% experienced a relief of bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • 38% reported relief of muscle rigidity
  • 31% reported fewer tremors at rest
  • 14% said they had an improvement in Levodopa-induced dyskinesias

As well as dealing with pain and movement problems, Parkinson’s Disease patients also suffer from various other associated symptoms. One of the perks of using medical marijuana is that it can safely alleviate many of these symptoms and help improve patients’ quality of life.

Many studies show that medical marijuana can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Even smoking a small amount of cannabis can improve the mood of users and reduce their stress levels. This is helpful for PD patients who suffer from low dopamine levels and mood issues due to their condition.

Marijuana can also help patients sleep better. Parkinson’s Disease patients often suffer from insomnia and other sleep problems. This can result in severe fatigue and further problems with movement due to poor sleep. Medical cannabis offers sleep relief for patients by relaxing their body and mind.

There are also various other benefits of medical marijuana for elderly patients. For instance, some research suggests cannabis may improve focus and cognitive function, and increase appetite. These benefits can be particularly helpful for elderly patients suffering from PD.

How to Use Medical Marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease

Patients looking to use medical marijuana for Parkinson’s Disease have plenty of options. Smoking marijuana is a particularly popular option, especially as smoking can give you relief for symptoms such as pain, stress, and anxiety almost instantly. You can also choose from various strains with differing effects.

Vaping marijuana is also a popular option. This is similar to smoking marijuana as it can give you instant benefits, but many users see vaping as a safer and healthier option as it doesn’t involve any burning chemicals. You can vape marijuana with a marijuana vape pen or even use vape oils and cartridges.

Other types of marijuana products offer even more convenient ways to experience the effects of THC. For instance, cannabis tinctures allow patients to measure their desired dose of THC and apply it under their tongue whereas edibles and capsules make it quick and easy to get a fixed dose of cannabinoids.

Those who would rather avoid the psychoactive effects of THC can also use CBD products. CBD oils, edibles, capsules, vapes and other such products allow patients to benefit from consuming cannabinoids without getting high.

Related: The Difference Between CBD & THC

How to Get Medical Cannabis

While some states allow anyone aged 21 or over to buy marijuana for any purpose, the best way to get medical marijuana is to apply for a medical card. Many states with medical marijuana programs now list Parkinson’s Disease as a qualifying condition, although you’ll need to go through a few steps to get your medical marijuana card.

In Florida, patients must first book an appointment with a qualified marijuana doctor. They’ll assess your symptoms and medical history before putting you on the medical marijuana registry. You can then apply for your medical card online and get your medical card within a couple of weeks. Once you have a medical card, you can buy high-quality marijuana and CBD products from marijuana dispensaries across the state.

The Takeaway

Many states now allow Parkinson’s Disease patients to use medical marijuana to help with their symptoms. Studies show that cannabis is safe and effective for elderly patients and can help with many of the issues they deal with. As such, it’s often used alongside other treatments to help with PD.

In Florida, the first step to getting your medical marijuana card is to schedule an appointment with a medical marijuana doctor. We make it fast and easy!


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