Neurological conditions can pose significant challenges to individuals and their loved ones, affecting not only physical health but also mental and emotional well-being. These conditions often require long-term management and personalised treatments.
Neurological conditions include a wide range of disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain. These conditions can have a wide range of symptoms, from seizures and muscle spasms to cognitive impairment or chronic pain.
Traditional drugs for neurological conditions can be an important part of neurological condition management, but they can come with limitations, such as unwanted side effects, varying efficacy, and the potential for dependence. This has led many patients and healthcare professionals to explore alternative treatments for adjunct therapies like medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis, sometimes referred to as medical marijuana or medicinal weed, is gaining recognition for its potential to relieve symptoms associated with various neurological disorders in some patients. Cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, may help modulate pain perception in the brain, reduce inflammation, and potentially improve overall neurological function.
Read on to find out how medical cannabis may help some patients with symptoms associated with neurological conditions and how to safely explore options for medicinal cannabis treatments.
What are neurological conditions?
Neurological conditions, also referred to as neurological disorders or diseases, encompass a broad spectrum of medical conditions that affect the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.
These conditions disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to a wide range of symptoms and health challenges. Neurological conditions can be caused by factors, such as genetic factors, infections, injuries, autoimmune responses, and degenerative processes (ageing-related changes).
Diagnosis, treatment, and management of neurological disorders typically involve a multidisciplinary approach, with neurologists and other healthcare professionals working together to provide comprehensive care.
Neurologists specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions, employing a combination of clinical assessments, imaging studies, and laboratory tests to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, patients often receive tailored treatment plans that may include medications to manage symptoms, physical therapy to improve function, surgical interventions to address specific issues, and, in some cases, lifestyle modifications.
Lifestyle modifications can be particularly important in the management of certain neurological conditions. These modifications may involve dietary changes, exercise regimens, and adaptations to daily routines to optimise the patient's quality of life and overall well-being. The goal is to empower individuals affected by neurological conditions to lead as fulfilling and comfortable lives as possible, despite the challenges posed by their condition.
Types of Neurological Conditions
While neurological conditions share a common thread of affecting the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves), neurological conditions cover many different kinds of disorders. Each neurological condition, like Parkinson’s or Epilepsy, has its own specific causes and symptoms, which makes the field of neurology quite complex.
Some common neurological conditions include:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Chronic Pain
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson's Disease
- Neuropathy (damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves)
Each neurological condition presents its unique challenges in terms of diagnosis and management. Treatment approaches vary, and they often involve a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications tailored to the specific condition and individual needs.
Medicinal Cannabis and Neurological Conditions
Medicinal cannabis is gaining recognition as a potential treatment option to help manage the symptoms of various neurological conditions due to its ability to potentially alleviate symptoms such as pain, muscle spasticity, and seizures in some patients.
Medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage the symptoms of the following neurological conditions:
- Epilepsy: Epilepsy, characterised by recurrent seizures, has garnered significant attention in the realm of medicinal cannabis. Certain medical cannabis extracts, such as CBD (cannabidiol), have shown promise in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures in some individuals with epilepsy.
The first ever medicinal cannabis product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was listed in 2021. Epidyolex® a prescription cannabidiol (CBD) oil that is used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Multiple sclerosis is a neuroinflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Medicinal cannabis, particularly oral medications containing THC and CBD, may help manage MS symptoms in some patients, including pain, muscle spasms, and spasticity.
- Parkinson's Disease: Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to motor impairments, including tremors and rigidity. Medicinal cannabis may help reduce these symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for some individuals with Parkinson's.
- Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy and trigeminal neuralgia, involve chronic pain resulting from nerve dysfunction. Medical cannabis treatments, with their analgesic properties, have been shown to help some people manage neuropathic pain.
- Migraines: Migraines are characterised by severe headaches and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and in some cases, visual disturbances or auras. Research shows that medicinal cannabis may help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in some patients. Additionally, medicinal cannabis may help some patients manage associated symptoms of migraine, such as nausea and vomiting.
Remember: the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in managing neurological conditions can vary from person to person. Additionally, the use of medicinal cannabis should be approached cautiously, and consultation with an experienced healthcare professional.
How Medicinal Cannabis May Affect Neurological Conditions
Medicinal cannabis, and medicinal cannabis products, containing cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), may help some people manage some of the complex symptoms of neurological disorders.
While ongoing research is still uncovering exactly how medicinal cannabis interacts with neurological conditions, here are a few ways it might affect some patients: :
- Managing Neuroinflammation: THC and CBD, the main compounds in medical cannabis, have anti-inflammatory effects. They interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates immune responses and inflammation.
It has been suggested that Medicinal cannabis may help slow down the progression of conditions like multiple sclerosis in some patients by reducing neuroinflammation, as inflammation is a key factor in nerve damage.
- Immune System Modulation: Medicinal cannabis compounds may affect how the immune system responds in some patients, especially in neuroinflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's.
Medicinal cannabis may control the release of cytokines and other immune signalling molecules, which helps in calming down an overactive immune response. This is significant for conditions like Guillain-Barré syndrome and lupus, where an overly active immune system is a characteristic feature.
- Pain Alleviation: Neurological conditions often bring persistent pain that can seriously affect a person's life. Medical cannabis may help manage pain symptoms in some patients due to its pain-relieving properties. This can be especially helpful for people with conditions like diabetic neuropathy, which causes nerve pain due to diabetes, or trigeminal neuralgia, a condition causing severe facial pain.
- Seizure Control: Medicinal cannabis, particularly the cannabinoid CBD, may aid in the management of seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Although we don't fully understand exactly how it helps, it seems that CBD's capacity to regulate nerve cell activity and the release of signalling chemicals in the brain plays a crucial role in decreasing the frequency and intensity of seizures.
- Neurological Symptom Management: Beyond inflammation and pain, medical cannabis treatments may address other distressing symptoms commonly associated with neurological conditions, including muscle spasms, tremors, and cognitive disturbances.
Remember: The efficacy of medicinal cannabis can vary from person to person and can depend on many factors, including your condition, the specific medical cannabis treatment used, and the dosing regimen.
As with any medical treatment, medicinal cannabis carries potential side effects and interactions with other medications. If you’re interested in learning more about medicinal cannabis treatments,to weigh the risks and benefits.
Possible Risks of Medical Cannabis for Neurological Conditions
While not everyone will experience adverse effects, it's important to be aware of potential risks associated with medical cannabis for inflammatory conditions:
- Cognitive Effects: Depending on the compounds present and their concentrations, medical cannabis might lead to cognitive effects, including impaired memory and concentration.
- Interactions and Side Effects: Just like any medication, medical cannabis could interact with other medications you're taking. Side effects, though potentially fewer than with traditional medications, still warrant careful consideration.
- Psychoactive Effects of THC: The psychoactive nature of THC may not be appropriate for people with certain mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
The Wrap Up
Living with a neurological condition can be a significant and long-lasting challenge. It requires a constant effort to manage symptoms, adapt to their limitations, and seek comfort and function despite ongoing neurological issues. Medical cannabis may provide hope for those dealing with conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain when other treatments have failed to provide relief.
Medicinal cannabis, under the guidance of experienced healthcare professionals, can offer people new possibilities for people with neurological conditions to improve their quality of life and manage symptoms.
Remember: to qualify for access to medicinal cannabis in Australia, you must have experienced a chronic condition for over three months and have tried other treatments that were either ineffective or resulted in unwanted side effect
Neurological Conditions: FAQ
Can multiple sclerosis be cured?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune neurological condition with no known cure at present. While there is no cure for MS, various treatments aim to manage its symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve patients' quality of life. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has shown promise in alleviating some MS symptoms, such as pain, muscle spasms, and spasticity in some patients.
However, it should be viewed as a complementary therapy rather than a cure. Research on the long-term effects and optimal use of medicinal cannabis for MS is ongoing, and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. Individuals with MS should work closely with healthcare professionals to develop comprehensive treatment plans tailored to their specific needs and conditions.
Do Parkinson's symptoms come and go?
Parkinson's disease is characterised by both motor and non-motor symptoms, and their presentation can indeed fluctuate, with periods of symptom exacerbation (known as "on" periods) followed by relative relief (known as "off" periods). These fluctuations are often a result of the interplay between the disease progression and the effectiveness of Parkinson's medications, particularly levodopa.
Some people may experience the "wearing-off" phenomenon, where the medication's effects diminish before the next dose, leading to a return of symptoms. Medicinal cannabis, particularly formulations containing both THC and CBD, has been explored as a potential adjunct therapy to help manage Parkinson's symptoms during "off" periods, offering relief from issues like tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia in some patients.
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The information on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Polln is not promoting the use of medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis in Australia is scheduled medication and regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Details about medicinal cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website. If you would like to explore medicinal cannabis for your chronic condition, please consult with a doctor.
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