Muscular dystrophies can be defined as a group of diseases which result in progressive degeneration of muscle mass. Nine major types of muscular dystrophies can be identified, each triggering unique manifestations of muscular deterioration. Some patients suffering from this disease develop breathing or swallowing difficulties over time, and some even lose the ability to sit up or walk. It should be noted that muscular dystrophy is genetic and its symptoms may start to develop as early as infancy or may not be present until later in adulthood. One for the most common types of the disease is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which appears early in childhood and affects mostly boys. What makes it worst is the fact that there is no cure for muscular dystrophy. The only conventional way of fighting the symptoms of this disease are exercise, physical therapy, and respiratory care, and of recent it is becoming evident that marijuana may help with the symptoms and complications of this disease.
How Marijuana Benefits Muscular Dystrophy
Research on marijuana and MD are still limited despite the fact marijuana has been shown to be effective against common symptoms of MD such as pain and stiffness. Clinical evidence suggests that marijuana may help related conditions, e.g., amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has some similar characteristics, such as impaired movement and muscle loss. According to a research conducted in 2010 and published in The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, marijuana could potentially benefit ALS and MD through: Reducing glutamate transmission, Antioxidant activity, Anti-inflammatory activity, Modulation of microglial cell activity, Preventing apoptosis (cell death) in healthy cells, Neuroprotective and neurotrophic (helps neurons grow) effects, and Enhancing function of mitochondria.
Clinical studies have equally found that cannabinoids are effective against pain, which is one of the most destructive symptoms of MD. In 2013, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial revealed that even low doses of vaporized THC was effective for reducing neuropathic pain.
The first and only study to directly examine cannabinoids and MD is was an article in Forensic Science which suggested that THC and CBD may benefit symptoms of the disease. Despite these amazing properties, much research is still needed on this aspect and it is unlikely that marijuana extracts alone could eliminate every symptom of MD. What makes it even worst is the fact that all forms of MD are genetically inherited or derived from spontaneous mutations in genes. For example, DMD results from a mutation which prevents the body from producing dystrophin, a protein that helps maintain the stability of muscles. Even though inherited genetic defects are especially difficult to treat, but since cannabinoids in marijuana have shown promise in normalizing the expression of genes, they very well may be able to treat the root causes of MD.
Reports of Success from Muscular Dystrophy Patients
Scientific evidence certainly suggests that cannabinoids in marijuana could help MD, but what really matters is how patients are responding. Many reports have been posted across the Internet suggesting that patients are benefiting immensely from various cannabinoid therapies. An article from a New Jersey newspaper described the experience of young Michael Oliveri, who suffered from tremendous MD-associated pain that numerous medications failed to relieve and finally used medicinal marijuana as a last resort. According to Oliveri, the medicine “miraculously improved” his quality of life, so much so that decided to say goodbye to family and friends in New Jersey just to relocate to California to gain safe access to marijuana
Dan Pope, a Colorado resident with MD stated in a US News article that marijuana helps control his muscle spasms and makes his pain more tolerable. Another man named Patrick McClellan who suffered from MD also reported that eating or vaporizing marijuana significantly reduces his muscle spasms and pain.
Another patient in Florida named John suffering with myotonic dystrophy, a form of MD, described the ability of marijuana to “turn down the volume” on his pain, while also helping him relax and go to sleep. He also revealed that he prefers indica-dominant strains, because indica strains generally have stronger effects on the body than the mind thus making sense they would work better for MD than sativa varieties which can be too stimulating.
The Future of Marijuana for Muscular Dystrophy
The scientific and anecdotal evidence clearly suggest that marijuana may be effective for some symptoms of MD in some people. However, more research is desperately needed on the use of high-quality marijuana extracts for MD and will almost certainly reveal additional benefits.