Cannabis for ALS
In 2014, the ice bucket challenge was popularized to raise awareness for a disease called Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive neurological disorder that impairs the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. The muscles don’t have any access to nourishment and when this happens it results in atrophy – a literal wasting away of the muscles.
It’s estimated that around 20,000 Americans live with ALS. Although the reasons are still unknown, military veterans are at much higher risk for developing ALS later on than the general public. ALS is the same disease that affects famous writer and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, and of course, baseball star Lou Gehrig. Gene mutations, chemical imbalances, exposure to free radicals, and high amounts of glutamate in the brain contribute to ALS.
ALS is irreversible, although treatment can slow down progression and help restore quality of life to patients. Common symptoms that ALS patients have to live with include spasticity, muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation, pain, appetite loss, excessive phlegm and salivation, loss of coordination, sleep problems, and depression. Sadly, most patients die anywhere between 2.5 years to 5 years after diagnosis because respiratory muscles can no longer work. Stephen Hawking’s case is remarkable as he has been able to live over 30 years after his diagnosis.
No matter how advanced medicine is, doctors still can’t stop the progression of ALS. Common medication for those with ALS include a cocktail of drugs, antioxidants, neutrophic growth factors, anti-inflammatory medicines and so much more. The drugs are designed to reduce inflammation and protect the cells from oxidation.
But cannabis can help.
It already contains all the properties that are found in the many drugs people are taking to treat ALS. Cannabis is a one-stop shop for all the health problems.
Many people living with ALS find comfort in using cannabis to relieve and reduce the debilitating symptoms. Cannabis can effectively address common symptoms including appetite loss, spasticity, pain, depression, drooling, and neuronal oxidation. The efficacy of the herb with ALS can be verified by several studies; one of which was conducted in 2001 and published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care.
One of the famous studies done analyzing the effects of cannabis for ALS revealed that patients found relief in the abilities of the plant to reduce saliva, act as a bronchodilator, improve sleep, relax muscles, treat depression and alleviate pain. The researchers also suggested that there is an increasing body of research that shows cannabis has neuroprotective and antioxidant properties which are vital to increasing the life span of cells and thus help ALS patients live longer.
A 2003 study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center revealed that both synthetic and plant-derived THC was effective in counteracting neurodegeneration in mice subjects. Another study was also done, with human subjects this time, at San Francisco’s Forbes Norris MDA/ALS Center. The researchers used Marinol (synthetic THC pills). The findings were positive – the patients derived significant relief particularly from spasticity, appetite loss, and insomnia.
There are several popularized anecdotal evidences of people who successfully used cannabis for ALS. The story of Bob Strider dates back to 1998 when he was first diagnosed with the disease, but he’d already been a cannabis user for many years which he attributes for slow progression of the disease. Unfortunately in 2012 he needed a more potent strain when things began to go downhill so he began to grow his own plants and made his own cannabis oil extracts. After 10 days his symptoms improved significantly, so much so that he was able to completely get off his painkillers. The cannabis oil extract treatment was also effective in reducing his blood pressure and also addressed his eczema and asthma. Bob lived in Prague for 20 years but after his experience he came home to Massachusetts to preach the power of cannabis. It is his belief that intensive treatments using raw cannabinoids that have been decarboxylated , it is possible to reverse ALS.
Cathy Jordan was diagnosed with ALS in 1986, but acknowledges the healing benefits of Myakka Gold, a special cannabis strain which she smoked while living in Florida in 1989. She says that the strain saved her life, but sadly the man who grew it for her went to jail for 12 years. While Cathy was only given 3-5 years to live, she’s still around 30 years later. She says that cannabis was critical to slowing down the progression of her disease while effectively alleviating many of the symptoms. Cathy also believes that cannabis cured her cancer.
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