Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disorder that involves the death of the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. While this disease affects mainly the motor neourens that control muscle movement, patients can have also cognitive changes and in rare cases (5%) frontotemporal dementia can develop.
Symptoms in ALS develop subtly and are often hard to diagnose. Some typical early symptoms are:
– Muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg (limb-onset) are usually the first symptoms
– Slurred, nasal and quieter speech,
– Difficulty in swallowing and and loss of tongue mobility affecting chewing of food
– Stiffness of muscles
The cause of this disease is still unknown. About 5 to 10 % shows a genetic origin and are directly inherited from affected parents
Treatment with cannabis has show great potential, not only in alleviating all the symptoms of this disorder but also in extending the life of these patients. Constituents present in that plant have effects on muscle relaxation, appetite stimulation, bronchodilatation, dry mouth, euphoria, vasodialtation and are neuroprotective antioxidants, non-opioid analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents. This has an impact on all these ALS symptoms:
– tight or stiff muscles and an inability to control those muscles, (spasticity)
– wasting shrinking of the muscles (wasting)
– difficult or labored breathing; shortness of breath (dyspnea)
– dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia)
– widening of blood vessels (vasodilation)
– the creation of damaging free radical (oxidation)
– a compound which neutralizes free radicals and protects cells and tissues from damage (antioxidant)
“Cannabis…has properties applicable to symptom management of ALS, including analgesia [i.e. pain control], muscle relaxation, bronchodilation [i.e. relaxation/widening of the airways], saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction.”
“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.” — Carter et al., 2010
All these findings are proven right by Cathie Jordan which you can see in the below video:
Patients should use a vaporiser or tinctures for the delivery of cannabis. Vaporisation is a good method as patients can adequately titrate the needed quantity to feel the effects. Tinctures are taken sub-lingually and usually have a higher percentage of compounds.
Stains with higher percentage of THC seem to work well with patients as well as cannabinol (CBN) which is present mostly in “aged” cannabis being a by-product of THC. At least some CBD should also be present as it has neuroprotective, neouroregenerative and anti-inflamatory properties.