In recent years, a growing volume of disciplined medical research has emerged regarding the use of medical cannabis as a treatment method for conditions allowed under the Texas Compassionate Use Program: Epilepsy and other seizure disorders, autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis and spasticity, cancer and palliative care, and neurodegenerative diseases.
This research, coupled with an increasing volume of positive results, has led to expanded interest among patients and growing receptivity among physicians for the use of medical marijuana as a part of their prescription regimes.
Explore the research for some of the covered conditions below. Within each condition, you will be able to browse a variety of current research and clinical trials. We are always updating our library of research.
In the case of epilepsy, new medications are desperately needed as 30%–40% of people with epilepsy do not respond to traditional medication regimens. There is also a great deal of concern from patients and their families about the long-term effects of chronic anti-epilepsy drug use.
Fortunately, multiple randomized, placebo-controlled trials indicate both the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis for the treatment of epilepsy.
Recent studies indicate there is expanding acceptance of cannabis within the MS community. While there are many uncertainties about the overall effects associated with cannabis use in patients with MS, research shows cannabis strains, containing CBD levels equal or higher than THC, have had positive effects on muscle spasticity and pain. The effects of medical marijuana, and its safety, have been reviewed by the American Academy of Neurology in a practice guideline.
Access to medical cannabis use for the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms was preceded by treatment of epilepsy symptoms. Research showed the initial use by patients with epilepsy had improvement in anxiety, aggression, panic, tantrums, and self-injurious behaviors. This caused parents of children with ASD to seek out cannabis treatment in hopes of achieving the same results.
There is an increased interest in the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of symptoms in cancer and palliative care patients, including pain, loss of appetite, anxiety, insomnia and nausea. In 2016, The American Society of Clinical Oncology published guidelines to help cancer survivors manage chronic pain. These recommendations included the use of medical marijuana and cannabinoid-based medicines.
Some studies indicate use of medical cannabis slows the progress of neurodegeneration. Medical marijuana may improve the quality of life for individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms by improving appetite and sleep, while decreasing pain and spasticity.
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex age-related neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of memory and cognitive function. Approximately 36 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a number estimated to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease often leads to death within 3 to 9 years. Pharmacological modulation of the endocannabinoid system is emerging as a viable therapeutic target for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that may respond positively to medical cannabis treatments include sleep problems, paranoia, anxiety, dysphoria, pain, poor appetite, and weight loss. In late stage Alzheimer’s, cannabis may improve appetite, sleep issues, and diminish agitation.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder involving the nigrostriatal motor circuits of the basal ganglia. Average age of diagnosis is around 60, but most patients have already lost more than half of the dopaminergic neurons in the affected circuitry at diagnosis. Cardinal symptoms of PD include resting tremor, muscular rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability. Associated symptoms can include depression, anxiety, hallucinations, sleep disorders, and late-stage dementia. All current therapies for PD are symptomatic, and are fraught with detrimental side effects in the form of treatment-associated dyskinesias that limit benefit. Meanwhile, the search for a neuroprotective therapy continues, seeking a treatment that might prevent or slow progression. Extensive preclinical studies in animal models of PD provide evidence that modulation of the endocannabinoid system may impact these various aspects of PD, as summarized by Concannon et al. Cannabinoid receptors are present in high density in the basal ganglia tissues involved in PD. Multiple studies in animal models have demonstrated symptom relief, amelioration of treatment-induced dyskinesias, and suggest a role in neuroprotection with various cannabinoid therapies.
Evidence from human clinical trials remains limited to early trials, mostly observational with small volumes of patients. Self-reported outcomes have often included favorable reports of efficacy, while a very limited number of controlled trials have not reproduced those findings. Babayeva et al provides an excellent summary of multiple small PD studies of mobility, dyskinesia amelioration, and associated symptoms including pain, anxiety, sleep and depression. Some studies have yielded conflicting results, and more research is necessary to clarify the specific benefits of medical cannabis for PD to allow more comprehensive future evaluation of best practices for treatment.
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