ALS (Lou Gehrig's)

Cannabis Treatment For Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)

In a survey of marijuana use in ALS patients, researchers sought what symptoms, if any, were treated by the plant. They found that marijuana was moderately effective at treating multiple symptoms: it stimulated appetite, reduced pain, reduced spasticity, and reduce drooling. Also, marijuana uses alleviated depression in users for approximately two to three hours.

study looked at cannabis’s therapeutic value for a variety of ailments. Among those examined was ALS. They noted that based on research done for multiple sclerosis, a similar disease, cannabis could be of benefit in treating both symptoms of ALS, and the disease itself.

In a similar 2010 study, these ideas were corroborated. Marijuana was found to deal with a broad range of ALS symptoms, and even impede the progression of the disease itself. The study notes that cannabis has antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective qualities and that all of these characteristics translate to a highly effective treatment for ALS. The researchers also state that marijuana alleviates many symptoms of the disease by reducing pain, relaxing muscles, increasing appetite, reducing saliva production, and inducing sleep. Given how promising cannabis looks like a treatment for ALS, the researchers urge more clinical trials be done as the “next logical step.”

Moving Forward

As the experts have suggested, it seems evident that more studies and analyses should be done on cannabis and its interaction with ALS sufferers. Based on what has been discovered thus far, cannabis-based medications show exceptional progress. The plant treats most symptoms of the disease and hints at treating many aspects of the illness itself; with more research, cannabis may become the standard in treating ALS.

ALS & Cannabis

“Cannabis is the single most versatile herbal remedy, and the most useful plant on Earth. No other single plant contains as wide a range of medically active herbal constituents.”    – Dr. Ethan Russo, Neurologist, Botanist and Cannabis Expert ; President, International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine

Two people in 100,000 are diagnosed with ALS or approximately 5,600 people per year. At any given time there are 30,000 Americans suffering with ALS.  To date, pharmaceuticals barely provide any modicum of relief to these patients and certainly do not offer a slowing or cessation of the development of the disease. There is NO cure. These patients often experience rapid health decline causing immense stress for the patient and their loved ones. It is rare for someone to live with this disease 7-10 years after diagnosis.

Enter the cannabis plant…This safe, effective and non-toxic herb offers some hope to those with ALS. 

How Cannabis Benefits ALS Patients

Cannabis is both an anti-oxidant and a neuroprotectant as documented in the federal government’s patent 6,630,507 on cannabis.  In the case of ALS, this is critically important because the neuroprotectant and anti-oxidant properties of cannabis may help slow the progression of the disease by protecting the motor neurons the disease attacks and kills (Gregory T. Carter 201). The anti-oxidant properties of cannabis help reduce the oxidative stress at a cellular level that contributes to cell death.

Animal research has shown that both synthetic and plant derived THC (one of the many active components of the cannabis plant and the primary psychoactive component – see Cannabinoid & Terpene section below) counteracted neurodegeneration (Stephen Byer 2013).   This research has not yet been conducted in human clinical trials but a study by Dr. Mary Abood has shown that symptomatic relief was measured for appetite, insomnia and spasticity in ALS patients (Stephen Byer 2013).  The two studies and the large body of scientific work that has already been conducted prove the safety of cannabis warrants further investigation of cannabis and cannabinoids for treatment of ALS.

From a symptom management or palliative care perspective, cannabis can provide great relief for ALS patients.  The symptoms of ALS that cannabis can help address are as follows:

Cannabis ALS Chart

Image Source: (Gregory T. Carter 201)

Dr. Gary T. Carter, Medical Director of the St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane Washington, gave a presentation at the 2014 Patient’s Out of Time Eighth National Clinical conference on Cannabis Therapeutics that addressed the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders.  Speaking about the safety and efficacy of cannabis for ALS, Dr. Carter said, “we know more about cannabis than 95% of other medicines. Cannabis is custom made to treat ALS (Carter 2014).”  Dr. Carter is an expert in treating neuromuscular disorders and has seen many ALS patients benefit from the use of cannabis.