Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month: How Medical Marijuana Can Help
Updated: Apr 16
Louisiana is what we consider an “all conditions” state meaning that all medical conditions can qualify you for medical marijuana treatment as long as you have a doctor’s recommendation (which we could help you with)! This is a great bonus for Louisiana residents as other states have specific qualifying conditions that one must be diagnosed with in order to qualify for a medical marijuana card.
There are dozens upon dozens of different medical conditions that medical marijuana is used for in the state of Louisiana. Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common. April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month! So we are bringing together a blog post for you to get all the information that you need to get educated and spread awareness about the disease, donate to charities and, ultimately, find support for you or any loved ones you may have battling Parkinson’s.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s is a “neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brains called substantia nigra.” Those are a lot of big words so what does this actually look like? For a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s, this looks like tremors at rest (mostly pill rolling tremors), bradykinesia which is slow movement, limb rigidity and gait or balance problems.
These are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s but this condition looks different on everyone and usually takes years to diagnose due to slow progression. The progression, as well, differs from person to person due to how diverse this disease is.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease yet but there are medications and surgeries that are common treatments for those diagnosed. Parkinson’s is also not fatal but the complications that come with it can be. It is totally possible to live a great quality of life when living with Parkinson’s! It is important to work with your doctor and find the treatment that can work best for you.
It is imperative to spread awareness about Parkinson’s because catching this condition often happens later in the course of the disease. This is when people start to see symptoms since a significant amount of substantia nigra neurons have been already damaged or lost completely. Researchers are working on ways to identify biomarkers for Parkinson’s so that early detection can be possible leading to quicker treatment to slow the disease down.
Movement Symptoms & Non-Movement Symptoms
There are two sides of Parkinson’s, one being movement symptoms and the other non-movement symptoms. Mostly people think of tremors in relation to Parkinson’s as this is the most obvious symptom. These tremors cause slow, stiffening movements which adds to the telltale signs of Parkinson’s. The three symptoms are bradykinesia (slow movement), rigidity and tremors. Bradykinesia must be present with either tremors or rigidity for a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Movement symptoms of Parkinson’s is caused by the impairment of dopamine cells. These cells are neurotransmitters (or messengers) that are responsible for controlling movement, the ability to feel pleasure or pain and emotional responses. As Parkinson’s progresses, the brain stops making dopamine altogether which causes movement problems in patients.
Since tremors are the most obvious symptoms of Parkinson’s, non-movement symptoms are not typically acknowledged by those who are not directly affected by the condition. Parkinson’s is also related to other health issues that are known as non-motor symptoms. Although they may be less clear, non-motor symptoms are very common and add to an already stressful disorder. Non-motor symptoms can include loss of smell or taste, depression, anxiety, disordered sleeping, fatigue and more. These symptoms can also reveal themselves long before a Parkinson’s diagnosis which is another reason why awareness is key!
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
There is not a clear cut cause of Parkinson’s disease but just like many other conditions, genetics, environmental and lifestyle forces act together. Since Parkinson’s is such a diverse condition, it is more difficult to point to a single cause but instead the research points to some commonalities that those with Parkinson’s have.
Genetics are said to account for about 10-15% of all Parkinson’s diagnosis as over the years researchers have found gene mutations that have links to Parkinson’s. Because of these findings, there is now a national initiative that offers free genetic testing for genes related to Parkinson’s and counseling to help participants understand their results!
Environmental factors also play a role in Parkinson’s as the relationship between genes and the environment can be more complex that one thinks. Some exposures can increase the risk of Parkinson’s but, on the other hand, some can decrease the risk. Some risk factors that have been linked to Parkinson’s are head injuries, location of residence, and even exposure to pesticides.
Although looking at these factors separately can help, overall, genetic, lifestyle and environmental forces all play a role together in the onset of Parkinson’s disease.
What Are Some of the Statistics?
Here are some important facts and figures that will help spread Parkinson’s awareness this month and every month:
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder.
By 2020, nearly one million people in the U.S. live with Parkinson’s disease.
Around 60,000 people are diagnosed each year.
Although Parkinson’s is known to increase with age, about 4% of people are diagnosed before the age of 50.
Men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s than women.
Medications for Parkinson’s patients cost on average $2,500 a year.
Surgery for the condition can cost up to $100,000.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help Parkinson’s Disease?
These numbers are very clear. Parkinson’s disease affects hundreds of thousands of people and the cost of treatment and surgery is astronomical. This leaves many Parkinson’s patients to take their health care into their own hands. Luckily in Louisiana, medical marijuana can be an option of Parkinson’s patients!
Medical marijuana is a great treatment addition for many Parkinson’s patients! Unfortunately, with a lot of the more traditional Parkinson’s medications, there also comes weighty side effects. Medical marijuana offers a unique relief solution for not only these negative medication side effects but for the disease itself.
So let’s get down to the science behind how medical marijuana can help treat Parkinson’s disease! Cannabinoids are the compounds that are in marijuana and, depending on the strain, there can be up to 60 cannabinoids present at a time. Cannabinoids are not just present in marijuana; the brain also makes cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is responsible for homeostasis within the body. The ECS in the brain has receptors that interact with the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and also helps with anti-inflammation, pain management and movement coordination. The receptors in the brain bind to the cannabinoids which can affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including dopamine.
This is how medical marijuana can be used to help treat Parkinson’s! In some cases, cannabinoids can even mimic dopamine in the brain, binding to the same receptors and acting the same way as natural dopamine. This is huge for Parkinson’s patients!
Medical marijuana can also help through the CBD use specifically! Using CBD as a form of medication can help Parkinson’s patients bring balance to their endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is super important for patients as the ECS play a vital role in the creation of dopamine in the brain! For Parkinson’s patients, a majority of dopamine-producing neurons are damaged or lost over the progression of the conditions so anything that can help with this is crucial.
CBD specifically is a marijuana form that produces antioxidants and neuroprotectants effects. What this means is that CBD will work with neurons to create protection against damage or death and also will stimulate receptor activation. This is how CBD helps regulate the ECS so that the system can provide more efficient regulation.
CBD is a great medical marijuana treatment option for a few reasons. Since Parkinson’s is an age-related disorder, the Parkinson’s population is older and may not want to experience the “high” effect that is associated with marijuana use. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the psychoactive effect. CBD, on the other hand, is THC’s opposite. It has all the medicinal properties without the psychoactive effect. This solution is perfect for people who do not want to experience a “high” and need the benefits of medical marijuana throughout the day!
How Can I Spread Awareness?
There are plenty of ways to support those you know and those you don’t know who have Parkinson’s disease. Below are some great ways to get involved and start spreading awareness:
Get educated: At Parkinsons.org, you can take multiple different classes to help train you to help take care of Parkinson’s patients. Although these classes are mostly for medical professionals, it is great to take to learn more about the condition itself! If that’s not up your alley, you can also participate in their one-hour Expert Briefings webinars.
Attend an event near you:
Monday, April 19, 2021
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Walk for Parkinson’s: Joining a walk is a great way to connect with and support those with Parkinson’s. In Louisiana, there is one walk in Baton Rouge on Saturday, May 15, 2021 that you can register to join!
Donate: If webinars, events and walks are not for you, then the easiest way you can support the cause is by donating!
Michael J. Fox Foundation - Donate here!
American Parkinson’s Disease Association - Donate here!
Parkinson’s Research Foundation - Donate here!
Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capital Area - Donate here!
Parkinson’s Foundation - Donate here!
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