Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a disorder that results in the death of neurons responsible for control of voluntary muscles. According to the ALS Association there are about 30 thousand Americans suffering from the disorder. We’ll take a look at ALS, the typical treatment methods and how cannabis can benefit patients.
What is Lou Gehrig’s Disease?
The disease causes the cells in the brain responsible for voluntary muscle control to slowly but steadily die off. Patients typically die within three to four years of being diagnosed as a result of the disorder. In the vast majority of cases, the cause of ALS in unknown. In the other 5%, the disease is inherited from the affected’s parents.
Patients suffering from ALS also struggle with muscle stiffness, twitching, and weakness as a result of muscles shrinking over time. As the disease progresses, speaking swallowing, and eventually breathing become difficult. These symptoms are accompanied by pain and depression.
There is currently no cure for ALS, which means that treatment is focused on managing symptoms of the disease, and slowing down its progression.
Traditional Treatment for Lou Gehrig’s Disease
A medication called Riluzole is effective in extending the life expectancy of patients with ALS by several months, and as such is approved by the FDA to treat sufferers. The medication does not restore function to already damage neurons. The medication, however, can also cause liver damage in some patients who take it. Other drugs such as diazepam may be used to manage symptoms of the disease.
As the disease affects the muscles allowing us to breathe, various strategies to assist in breathing may be used. These utilize devices that artificially inflate the lungs. additionally, physical therapy has been shown to promote numerous benefits in patients such as increased strength and limited pain. Regardless, no treatment exists to outright stop or reverse the progression of the disease.
Cannabis Treatment for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)
In a survey of marijuana use in ALS patients, researchers sought what symptoms, if any, were treated by the plant. The found that marijuana was moderately effective at treating the following symptoms:
- It stimulated appetite
- Reduced pain
- Reduction in spasticity
- Reduced drooling
- Alleviated depression for 2 – 3 hours
A study looked at cannabis’s therapeutic value for a variety of ailments. Among these examined was ALS. They noted that based on research done for multiple sclerosis, a similar disease, cannabis could be of benefit in treating symptoms of ALS, and the disease itself.
In a similar study back in 2016, these ideas were corroborated. Marijuana was found to relieve a broad range of ALS symptoms, and even slow the progression of the disease itself. The study notes that cannabis has antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective qualities and that all of these characteristics translate to a highly effective treatment for ALS. The researchers also state that marijuana alleviates many symptoms of the disease by reducing pain, relaxing muscles, increasing appetite, reducing saliva production, and inducing sleep. Given how much promise cannabis has as a treatment for ALS, the researchers urge more clinical trials be done as the “next logical step.”
As the experts have suggested, it seems evident that more studies and analyses should be done on cannabis and its interaction with ALS sufferers. Based on what has been discovered thus far, cannabis-based medications show exceptional progress. Because plant treats most symptoms of the disease and hints at treating many aspects if the illness itself; with more research, cannabis may become the standards in treating ALS.