Lou Gehrig’s disease commonly known as ALS affects people in the age group of 40 to 70 years. It is a degenerative motor neuron disorder that according to the ALS Association, “impacts the motor neuron cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” Once the motor neurons die, the brain is no longer able to initiate or control the movement of muscles.
More than 5000 people are diagnosed with ALS per year and about 30,000 Americans reportedly suffer from ALS at any given time. Till date there are hardly any pharmaceutical organizations that can provide effective relief to ALS patients and there is no remedy for mitigating the development of the disorder.
Can marijuana help ALS victims?
As documented in the U.S federal government’s patent on this plant, cannabis or marijuana is an anti-oxidant and a neuroprotectant. This is important for ALS disease as the neuroprotectant and anti-oxidant properties of cannabis help in slowing down the development of the disease. It protects the motor neurons that the disease hits and kills (as mentioned in Gregory T. Carter 201). The anti-oxidant properties of marijuana also help in reducing the oxidative pressure at a cellular level that leads to death of cells.
Research reveals that both synthetic and plant derived THC can work against neuro-degeneration. This research is yet to be conducted in clinical experiments on human beings but a study by Dr. Mary Abood did earlier show that symptomatic respite was recorded with regards to appetite, insomnia and spasticity in ALS patients. Both these studies and a comprehensive collection of scientific work that has been conducted earlier, authenticate the safety of cannabis. This in turn warrants additional investigation of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat ALS victims.
The table given below has been sourced from Gregory T Carter 201 and it summarizes the different properties of marijuana as they apply to managing the symptoms of ALS disease:
ALS Symptom Marijuana Impact
Pain Nonopioid analgesia and anti-inflammatory
Spasticity Muscle relaxant
Wasting Appetite stimulant
Drooling Dry mouth
Neuronal Oxidation Neuro protective anti-oxidant
It is important to consult a doctor before you take cannabis to treat ALS. The two popular methods for intake of this medicine include the following:
Edibles: Most patients prefer marijuana edibles as these have stronger effect and offer continued relief. Just remember that as marijuana is ingested it has to be metabolized in the liver. This may take anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours as per one’s digestion abilities, the concentration in edible and the quantity of cannabis taken.
Inhalation: An advantage of using inhaled marijuana to treat painful symptoms is that the patient will experience relief almost immediately. The patient will also be able to titrate the medicine as required. A well known way of using inhaled marijuana is through a marijuana cigarette which is referred to as a joint, a pipe or a bong. However, these methods directly burn the plant material and create undesired bi-products like smoke and tar that cause inflammation of lungs. Hence, a device called vaporizer is a better alternative for anyone inhaling marijuana for medical reasons.