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The Role of Medical Marijuana in Managing ALS Symptoms

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating disease that attacks the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord, leading to worsening symptoms that greatly affect your quality of life. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for ALS, but doctors and researchers have made significant strides in better managing the condition through medical marijuana.

At Coastal Wellness Centers, we understand the very serious implications of an ALS diagnosis; and while we may be unable to cure ALS, there are ways we can alleviate many of the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease through medical cannabis. Here’s a look at the role that medical marijuana can play in managing your ALS symptoms

ALS At A Glance

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re familiar with ALS, but we’ll quickly review what the disease is and some of the more common symptoms, in case you’re new to this diagnosis.

ALS is a neuromuscular disease that affects as many as 30,000 people in the United States, and approximately 5,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. A neuromuscular disease, ALS causes the progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord— namely your motor nerves. As your motor nerves succumb to the disease, they’re unable to communicate with your muscles, which causes them to atrophy. ALS typically develops in both men and women between the ages of 40 and 70, but it’s most common in adults over the age of 60.

The Symptoms Of ALS

Since there’s no cure for ALS, treatment often comes down to symptom management. With medical cannabis, our goal is to not only improve your symptoms, but to slow the progression of the disease.

Marijuana contains two active ingredients that are called cannabinoids — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These ingredients bind to cannabinoid receptor proteins (CB1 and CB2) in your endocannabinoid system and function as anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agents. These receptor proteins also provide antioxidants that help fight off free radicals. In stimulating and aiding your endocannabinoid system with the use of THC and CBD, our aim is to slow or halt the damage that occurs in your motor neurons.

In addition to bolstering the protection and support of your nerve cells, THC and CBD can also address:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Lack of appetite

  • Sleep issues

  • Motor control

  • Pain

  • Muscle spasticity (cramping and stiffness)

While research is ongoing on the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating ALS, clinical trials are currently underway and the early results are promising, especially when it comes to addressing muscle spasticity.

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