By Paul Armentano
Cannabis therapy may reduce symptoms and prolong survival in patients diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), according to a scientific review published online last week by the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine.
Investigators at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle and Temple University in Pennsylvania reviewed preclinical and anecdotal data indicating that marijuana appears to treat symptoms of ALS as well as moderate the course of the disease.
Authors wrote: “Preclinical data indicate that 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. … From a pharmacological perspective, cannabis is remarkably safe with realistically no possibility of overdose or frank physical addiction. There is a valid, logical, scientifically grounded rationale to support the use of cannabis in the pharmacological management of ALS.”
They added, “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.”
Investigators concluded, “There is an overwhelming amount of preclinical and clinical evidence to warrant initiating a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of cannabis as a disease-modifying compound in ALS.”
Writing in the March 2004 issue of the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders, investigators at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported that the administration of THC both before and after the onset of ALS symptoms staved disease progression and prolonged survival in animals compared to untreated controls. To date, however, no clinical trials have assessed the use of marijuana or any of the plant’s cannabinoids on patients diagnosed with ALS.
Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a fatal, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by the selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord, brain stem, and motor cortex. An estimated 30,000 Americans are living with ALS, which often arises spontaneously and afflicts otherwise healthy adults. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of patients with ALS die within three to five years following the onset of disease symptoms.