WHAT IS ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare, progressive, neurological condition in which the long motor neurons in the brain cortex and spinal cord deteriorate and die. The associated voluntary muscles waste away, causing symptoms such as muscle spasms, cramps, rigidity, pain, inflammation, and paralysis.
ALS affects an estimated 30,000 Americans at any given time. It often appears suddenly in otherwise healthy adults between the ages of 40 and 70.
There is currently no known cure. Available treatments strive to alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life, and prolong survival.
Medications that protect the brain and remove free radicals from the body can help to manage symptoms and possibly slow the progress of the disease. Nutrition, cognitive behavioral therapy, and therapy for breathing, speech, and movement may also improve quality of life.
Early symptoms of ALS depend on which muscles are being affected. The first symptoms of ALS are typically weakness in a hand or leg, with loss of dexterity or problems with balance or walking. Some people experience slurred or nasal speech, excessive choking, and difficulty chewing and swallowing.
Common symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Speech impairments
- Stiff muscles
- Tripping, dropping things, clumsiness
- Wasting muscles
HOW MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELPS ALS PATIENTS
Growing evidence suggests marijuana-based therapies may work better than current FDA-approved medication in treating ALS; research suggests marijuana’s antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties could slow disease progression.
Cannabis has also demonstrated efficacy in treating the following ALS symptoms:
- Excessive salivation
- Involuntary movements
- Muscle spasms
According to a 2010 study published by Rehabilitation Medicine and Palliative Care:
“Ideally, a multi-drug regimen, including glutamate antagonists, antioxidants, a centrally acting anti-inflammatory agent, microglial cell modulators (including tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-a] inhibitors), an antiapoptotic agent, one or more neurotrophic growth factors, and a mitochondrial function-enhancing agent would be required to comprehensively address the known pathophysiology of ALS.
Remarkably, cannabis appears to have activity in all of those areas. Preclinical data indicate that cannabis has powerful antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.