Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is also more commonly known as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a serious diseases characterised by the death of cells which control the muscles. It is thought that this debilitating condition is experienced by around 30,000 Americans. Can cannabis be used to treat ALS?
What is ALS?
ALS results in the cells that control voluntary muscle control in the brain to slowly die and reduce muscle control of the sufferer as a result. Normally, the life expectancy of an ALS sufferer tends to only be between 3 to 4 years, which has resulted in a large amount of research to try and improve the prospects of trying to identify a cure for this terrible disease. The cause of ALS is currently unknown, but it is thought that it could be inherited from parents who are carriers or who themselves were affected by the disease.
In terms of symptoms of ALS, the individual may experience:
- Muscle stiffness and difficulty moving
- Severe twitching
- Muscle weakness as a result of shrinkage
As the disease progresses, the sufferer will find it difficult to speak and swallow. Ultimately, breathing will become difficult. Due to the slow progression of ALS, pain and depression are common side effects of the disease. As of 2016, there is no known cure for ALS, but there have been studies to reduce the symptoms that a patient may experience by trying to slow down the progression of the disease.
What is the Current Treatment for ALS?
For patients suffering from ALS, it is common for the drug Riluzole to be prescribed. It is relatively effective at increasing the life expectancy of a sufferer (sometimes by many months), and is one of the only drugs to be approved for treatment. It is important to note that this medication doesn’t restore any functionality that has been damaged. It can also cause terrible side effects, such as liver damage. Diazepam is another option to help treat the symptoms of ALS.
Can Cannabis Be Used to Alleviate Symptoms?
Research has found that cannabis is quite effective at treating some ALS symptoms, such as:
- Increasing appetite
- Pain reduction
- Decrease in spasticity and drooling
- Alleviates depression for a few hours
In a study conducted in 2010, marijuana was said to help with many symptoms of ALS, and even halt the speed of the disease. Cannabis is a known anti-oxidatant, and has many other useful properties such as anti-inflammatory benefits.Because of these benefits, many researchers have urged other researchers to look at cannabis as a viable treatment option for ALS, and to conduct more clinical trials in order for cannabis to be rolled out to all sufferers.
From the research that has been conducted so far, there is certainly positive benefits to be had for using cannabis in treating ALS symptoms. Let’s hope that further progress can be made in the area of ALS in order to find a cure for this terrible disease.