How Does Medical Marijuana Help With and Treat Cerebral Palsy?
- Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of motor disabilities in children.
- Compounds found in medical marijuana have been shown to help reduce muscle spasticity, rigidity, and pain associated with cerebral palsy by stimulating receptors in the brain and nervous system.
- Several cannabis-infused products suitable for the treatment of cerebral palsy are available at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide.
Cerebral palsy is an incurable disease caused by damage to the immature, developing brain. The damage commonly happens before birth and the most common cause of motor disabilities in childhood. Can medical marijuana offer improved quality of life cerebral palsy patients? Studies and enecdotal evidence suggest that it can.
Cerebral palsy symptoms can be mild to severe. The condition can cause impaired movement, abnormal reflexes, rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, and difficulty in walking. Cerebral palsy also suffer from impaired vision, hearing, and sensation, excessive drooling, difficulties with swallowing, delays in speech and difficulties talking.
Pharmaceutical medications such as Dentrolene, Baclofen, Tizanidine, and Diazepa are often prescribed to help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. However, most of these drugs come with high risk of debilitating side effects.
In 2019 Michigan became the first state to add cerebral palsy to its list of qualifying conditions for access to medical marijuana dispensaries. Many other states also allow the use of medical marijuana to treat all forms of rigitity, spasticty, seizures, and chronic pain asssociated with cerebral palsy.
How does medical marijuana help cerebral palsy patients?
The evidence for medical marijuana’s efficacy in treating cerebral palsy is becoming more and more compelling as research accumulates. Several key studies and abundant anecdotal evidence suggest that medical marijuana offers a safe alternative to pharmaceutical medications used to treat cerebral palsy.
A study by Wolfson Medical Center near Tel Aviv found that treatment with medical marijuana significantly improved the condition of children suffering from cerebral palsy. Partcipants treated with cannabis oil exhibited improved motor skills. The treatment also improved sleep quality and mood for some patients.
One mother of a 2-year-old study participant reported: “The difference was felt quickly and was reflected in his calm, compared to his previous restlessness. There was also a significant improvement in sleep, which led to an improvement in our sleep. His motor function also improved, but we don’t know if this was due to the treatment or the fact that he was getting older.”
Several other studies produced similar results:
- A report published in 2007 claimed that the medical marijuana helped partial seizures frequently experienced by cerebral palsy patients.
- A report published in 2011 claimed that medical marijuana beat out more than 20 traditional medications for the treatment of pain associated with cerebral palsy in adults.
- A 2012 study found that smoked cannabis was better than the placebo for pain and symptom reduction.
- A report published in 2014 showed medical marijuana was efficatious in reducing painful muscle spasms in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
- A report published in 2016 showed significant pain relief in patients who inhaled cannabis.
For those who would like to take a deeper dive into the science, links to these and other studies on the use of medical marijuana to treat cerebral palsy can be found at the end of this article.
Is medical marijuana safe for treating cerebral palsy?
Serious side effects of traditional pharmaceutical treatments for cerebral palsy include chronic depression and thoughts of suicide. They can also cause a potentially life-threatening reaction known as multiorgan hypersensitivity.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is non-toxic, non-habit forming, and can be non-intoxicating when used properly. Studies have shown that medical marijuana partially alleviates some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy in some patients with fewer and milder side effects than conventional medications.
How does medical marijuana help treat cerebral palsy?
Compounds produced in the resinous female flowers of the cannabis plant called phytocannabinoids have been shown to provide muscle relaxant, antispasmodic, and antiseizure properties.
Phytocannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBG, and CBN mimic the activity of our own naturally produced endocannabinoids. Of these, THC is the only cannabinoid that produces intoxication and only when smoked, vaped, or cooked. THC found in raw cannabis is non-intoxicating.
Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids stimulate receptors on the surface of neurons helping to regulate pain signals and reducing brain activity that causes spasticity, rigidity, and seizure-like activity in cerebral palsy patients.
How is medical marijuana used to treat cerebral palsy?
Children with cerebral palsy should not be smoking or vaping marijuana or cannabis concentrates. And many adult cerebral palsy patients will have difficulty with inhalation methods such as smoking, vaping, and dabbing.
Delivery methods commonly used to treat cerebral palsy include tinctures, oils, capsules, edibles, and liquid concentrates. Concentrates are usually packaged in a plastic measuring syringe for accurate dosing.
Liquid preparations such as tinctures and oils as well as some concentrates can be used sublingually. They can be delivered under the tongue where they are absorbed into the blood stream via the capilaries in the soft tissue in the mouth. They can also be added to foods and beverages.
Cannabis oil capsules and cannabis-infused edibles might be good options for patients who do not have diffulculty swallowing.
All of these products can be purchase with a variety of formulations including only THC or only CBD, or a mixture of cannabinoids. Moreover, some whole-plant preparations also include compounds called terpenes that can help to relieve some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. The combined effect of cannabinoids and terpenes is known as the entourage effect.
Some experimentation might be required to determine which cannabinoids work best for each individual patient.
Dosage and frequency of use should be determined under the guidance of a knowledgable, qualified medical marijuana doctor.
Some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy such as spasticity, rigidity, seizures, and pain can be safely reduced in some patients with the proper use of medical cannabis. Oral delivery methods available at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide offer convenience and accurate dosing and come in a wide array of formulations.
Cerebral palsy is a life-threatening medical condition for some patients and should only be treated under the guidance of a certified medical marijuana doctor.
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Sources and additional reading
- Marijuana for Children with Cerebral Palsy? | MyCerebralPalsyChild.org
- Cerebral Palsy Approved for Patient Medical Marijuana Use in Michigan
- The Effects of Cannabis on Dystonia and Spasticity on Pediatric Patients
- Efficacy of cannabinoids for treating paediatric spasticity in cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury: what is the evidence?
- Effectiveness of cannabis-based medicinal products for the treatment of spasticity
- Medical marijuana helps kids with cerebral palsy, Israeli study finds
- Cerebral Palsy and Medical Marijuana: What we know – HIE Help Center
- Cerebral Palsy and Medical Marijuana
- Effect of an equine‐movement therapy program on gait, energy expenditure, and motor function in children with spastic cerebral palsy: a pilot study
- An Exploratory Human Laboratory Experiment Evaluating Vaporized Cannabis in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain From Spinal Cord Injury and Disease
- Survey Results of Pain Treatments in Adults with Cerebral Palsy
- Marijuana: an effective antiepileptic treatment in partial epilepsy? A case report and review of the literature