The notion of degenerative diseases embraces quite a wide range of conditions. All of them imply damage to neurons and deterioration of cognitive or physical functions. The most widely spread of them is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for the majority of dementia cases.
It still remains a riddle how neurodegenerative disease progression can be halted, to say nothing of reversing it. Cannabis smoking proponents claim the compounds found in the plant can be a good option to treat such conditions, and there is scientific research that supports the idea.
What evidence do we have?
Back in 2009, almost a decade ago, there was no plausible data suggesting the efficacy of cannabinoids. According to a Cochrane review published at that time, the data was insufficient and too poorly presented to make any conclusions. The need for more double-blind placebo-controlled trials was highlighted.
The ongoing legalization of marijuana in many American states led to a number of cannabis-related studies being carried out.
The American Academy of Neurology conducted a study, in which they found that cannabinoids may be effective at treating neurological disorders. Among the symptoms they are believed to be able to alleviate are painful spasms, spasticity, and central pain, which is usually associated with such a debilitating neurodegenerative disease as multiple sclerosis. The researchers also suggested adding cannabinoid-based medications in the list of treatments covered by insurance.
Another piece of scientific evidence was provided by British scientists, who published a review of many a research into what effects cannabis-derived compounds can have on the nervous system. They came to the conclusion that while a lot of its aspects remain a mystery, the potential is impressive, and the endocannabinoid system can be a therapeutic target.
One more important finding is that cannabinoid agonists, which are notorious for their ability to impair cognitive functions, are also capable of reducing excitotoxicity, and suppressing neuroinflammatory processes. Both effects could be beneficial in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
A matter of social importance
In most countries, population is getting older, and rapid aging leads to a number of problems, which are considered by some to be social burdens. The costs of treatment facility services and other healthcare expenses are constantly increasing and expected to skyrocket, as it is estimated that in America alone over 12 million people will have acquired a neurodegenerative disease by 2045. Nowadays, there are about 5 million US citizens with Alzheimer’s disease, and more than 1.5 million patients suffering from other neurodegenerative disorders.
Such circumstances may force governments to reevaluate their attitudes towards cannabis, which may help alleviate the symptoms of diseases of this kind. The need for more extensive research is being emphasized in many studies.
Cannabis is legalized in a good many states, but it still remains included in Schedule I, a list of illegal drugs with no proved medical uses.
It goes without saying that simply giving permission to buy the drug would be a bad idea, as many people – especially youngsters – will abuse the opportunity and buy marijuana to use it for recreational purposes. Using marijuana for purposes other than medical ones is not recommended, because it impairs cognitive function, including driving ability. Using cannabis to treat diseases is one thing, but allowing everyone to buy and use it can lead to an increase in patients with addiction or certain diseases. That is why the issue remains a controversial one, and as of this moment, there is no solution that would enable people to restrict its use without making it inaccessible, while preventing teenagers from smoking weed.