Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain & spinal cord, weakens muscles and impacts physical function.
Common symptoms ALS patients present with are muscle weakness, spasticity, drooling, pain, and cachexia
There is no cure for ALS. Therapy and medication can slow ALS, reduce symptoms and make patients more comfortable.
The endocannabinoid system is potentially involved in reducing neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity and oxidative cell damage. Therefore, cannabinoids can provide symptomatic relief of patients with ALS, delay progression and prolong survival.
According to a study by Dr. Gregory Carter, Cannabis has powerful antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. Cannabis also has properties applicable to symptom management of ALS, including analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction.
Properties of cannabis applicable to ALS symptom management:
|ALS Symptom||Cannabis Effect|
|Pain||Non-opioid analgesia and anti-inflammatory|
|Neuronal oxidation||Neuroprotective antioxidant|
Gregory T. Carter, MD Bill S. Rosen, MD “Marijuana in the management of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care July/August 2001; 18(4)
“It is possible to suggest that CBD, because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, could be a promising tool to treat disturbances and prolong survival in ALS patients. This is strongly supported by the report that THC was able to slow progression and prolong survival in a mouse transgenic model of ALS, and that similar results were obtained when cannabinol was utilized.”
Teresa Iuvone, Giuseppe Esposito, Daniele De Filippis, Caterina Scuderi, and Luca Steardo “Cannabidiol: A Promising Drug for Neurodegenerative Disorders?” CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics. Spring 2009 15(1)65-75
In 2004, Raman et al. published an animal study showing evidence that THC may be useful in preventing ALS progression by reducing oxidative damage (i.e. damage caused to cells and tissues by free radicals) and excitotoxicity (i.e. excessive stimulation of a neuron, leading to damage), both of which can result in damage and death of motor neuron cells.
Using transgenic mice, (which act as models for humans with ALS) in a 2005 study, Weydt et al. found that the use of the cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN) could possibly delay the onset of ALS-like symptoms, but would not necessarily change length of survival.
Bilsland et al. found that utilization of a synthetic cannabinoid may be useful in stopping progression of ALS-like symptoms.
According to a 2010 study by Russo, THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and can be helpful in reducing inflammation and pain. CBD dampens the negative effects of THC (rapid heartbeat/unwanted psycho-activity), and provides a happier high than with just THC alone. CBD helps relieve muscle spasms, is an anti-inflammatory and a more powerful anti-oxidant than vitamins C or E.
In the March 2004 Journal of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders reported that the administration of THC both before and after the onset of ALS symptoms prolonged survival and halted disease progression in animals.
Research led by a group of scientists from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, concluded that their findings “provide support that Sativex (or alternative Sativex-like combinations of phytocannabinoids) may serve as a novel disease-modifying therapy in ALS.
**Sativex is not approved in the United States**
CBD has been shown to have beneficial effects on all major neurodegenerative diseases involving the mitochondrial and basal ganglia portions of the brain.
According to Carter et al, based on the currently available scientific data, it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.
- Approved by the FDA for treatment of ALS.
- May extend survival and/or time to tracheostomy in some patients
- Approved by the FDA for treatment of ALS
- Given by IV infusion
- Has been shown to reduce the decline in daily functioning