ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells all over the body, causing them to stop working and die. The nerves lose its ability to trigger specific muscles, causing these muscles to become weak and lead to paralysis. ALS is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, with the term being coined after the New York Yankees Hall of Famer suffered from the disease and ended his career in 1939.
Research is still ongoing to determine the cause of the disease. Currently, scientists are looking at numerous factors that are potentially linked to ALS such as genetics and environmental factors. While there are currently no records of exact figures, it is estimated that around 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States are suffering from ALS.
With the cause of ALS still undetermined, there are no known cures for ALS. However, pharmaceuticals are prescribed to patients in order to manage the symptoms and/or slow the progression of the disease.
Riluzole is prescribed to patients in order to slow the progression of ALS. And while it is effectively, this drug is quite expensive. The possible side effects of this drug include dizziness, tiredness, upset stomach, stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle weakness or aches, loss of appetite, and headache.
Aside from riluzole, other drugs are prescribed to control the symptoms of ALS. Baclofen or diazepam is prescribed to help control spasticity, gabapentin for the control of pain, and trihexyphenidyl or amitriptyline to help patients swallow saliva.
ALS and Medical Marijuana
While further research is yet to be done, an initial study done by Carter et al. shows that cannabis looks promising in slowing the progression of the disease. According to the study, the preclinical data shows that cannabis has powerful antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. This effect was exhibited in mice affected with ALS, with cannabis use resulting to prolonged neuronal cell survival, delayed onset, and slower progression of the neurodegenerative disease.
While the molecular effects of cannabis is yet to be further looked into, cannabis may be used to manage the symptoms of the ALS. Effects of cannabis usage include analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation, saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction.