Marijuana & Parkinson's

The use of marijuana to ease many Parkinson's symptoms seems to come up everywhere in our community. At support group meetings and Parkinson’s conferences, it is often the first subject brought up by the audience. Over the last few years, I have had countless conversations about cannabis. Does it help? Is it harmful? What do I buy? What is the proper ratio of THC and CBD? What consumption method should I use? We are all looking for answers and this is a vast and complicated subject. The research is uncertain and lacking serious studies. The successful users hail its virtues. Many think “should I give it try?” The docs come down on both sides.

My experience

My brief history with marijuana use was for treatment of Parkinson’s related insomnia. Like many of us in Parkinson’s wheelhouse (in our 70s), I knew little about marijuana. First of all, my knowledge of cannabis was hearsay with no personal experience. It was a whole learning process with research and trying to understand the young sales staff at the dispensary. They are knowledgeable about their product, not so much about efficacy research, and know nothing about Parkinson’s.

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Does it help?

It kind of worked at first. I had some better nights of sleep but ultimately I was back at my usual 5 to 5 hours 30 minutes. I tried different delivery systems and different THC/CBD ratios but with little success.

That is only one story. There are many, many users who rely on marijuana to soothe their symptoms successfully. I say if it works use it. Why does it work for so many? An easy answer is “we are all different.” It appears that we are a long way from serious long-term studies that explains why it works for some and not for others.

What do the docs say?

My neurologist doesn’t recommend it. He is concerned about long-term effects. Another told me he is ok with its use but does question the reliability of products. His last comment was, “I really suggest you don’t use it.” There is a bit of a mixed message advocating its use (in the legal states), but they hear a lot of positive stories and want to help their patients.

Caution and efficacy

Many states say it is legal but the federal government says it is illegal. Right there is a problem. Enforcement is messy between the two systems. In many of the states where it is legal, they jumped in before they were ready to administer the product properly. It appears there is no standardized testing being done by a government agency such as the FDA. Some private companies claim to test and standardize their products. Still, it's fair to ask what you are getting each time you make a purchase.

The big question for us in the Parkinson’s boat is this: Is it safe for us? We don’t know. Basically, we are using an untested drug that directly affects a brain that already does not function properly. Should we add an unknown, untested, unproven drug to the mix? Does this make sense? I think we should continue to research, test, standardize, and learn scientifically. One day, maybe we will have a remedy that really does everything that its champions say it does. Hard advocacy might be a little premature. My take: use with caution.

Having said all of that, would I use it if it worked for me? In a heartbeat. At age 76, just what is my long-term? I would take my chances.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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