By definition, muscular dystrophies refer to the nine types that result in the degeneration of muscle mass. Each of these types of muscular dystrophy have their own unique manifestations. In other words, certain patients will not be able to sit or walk while others may just have issues breathing or swallowing.
By nature, muscular dystrophy is actually genetic, and the symptoms may begin to develop somewhere in childhood but will manifest in adulthood. One of the most common types of muscular dystrophy is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) which affects mostly boys in childhood.
There is no cure for this condition. Apart from exercise, respiratory care and physical exercise, cannabis might be able to help with both the complications and symptoms of this condition.
How Cannabis Affects Muscular Dystrophy
Studies that show the benefits of cannabis on muscular dystrophy are still lacking, even though cannabis has been proven to be effective when it comes to stiffness and pain. There is evidence that it helps related conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that also include symptoms such as muscle loss and impaired movement.
In a study conducted in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, in 2010, it was described how cannabis could potentially benefit ALS through the following mechanisms:
1: Reducing glutamate transmission
2: Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity
3: Prevention of apoptosis in healthy cells
4: Modulation of microglial cell activity
5: Neuroprotective and neurotrophic effects
6: Improves function of mitochondria
In other words, and given these benefits, cannabis can theoretically benefit muscular dystrophy too.
There is one study that has revealed that cannabinoids have been most effective when it comes to dealing with pain – one of the most devastating effects of muscular dystrophy. Actually, a 2013 study that included a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial revealed that even the lowest doses of vaporized THC reduced neuropathic pain. A previous randomized trial showed that smoking cannabis three times a day not only reduces pain measures but also helped improve sleep.
As for MD, there is one study that exists as an article in Forensic Science that suggests that both THC and CBD could benefit the symptoms of the disease. Yet, due to the age of the article, the full text is not fully available to researchers.
Rather admittedly, it must be pointed out that cannabis extracts, despite the amazing properties that they possess, are not able to eliminate every MD symptom.
As mentioned earlier, muscular dystrophy occurs due to mutations in genes. Since cannabis has shown that it is capable of normalizing the expression of these genes, it might also be able to treat the root causes of the genes too.
What Do Muscular Dystrophy Patients Have to Say?
There is scientific evidence to suggest that cannabinoids could help MD. Yet the best part is the reports about the number of patients that are responding to this treatment – especially over the Internet.
One article from a New Jersey newspaper spoke of a certain Michael Oliveri that suffered from MD-associated pain that a number of MD-related medication failed to help with. As a result, he used medicinal cannabis as a final resort. This medicine improved the quality of his life so much that he moved from New Jersey to California to gain access to cannabis much easier.
Another MD patient, Dan Pope, who lives in Colorado stated that it is cannabis that helps control his muscle spasms apart from making his pain far more tolerable. Another patient by the name Patrick McClellan spoke both of eating and vaporizing cannabis that helped with his muscle spasms and pain.
Medical Jane, a popular medical cannabis blog, spoke with John from Florida who has myotonic dystrophy who also explained that cannabis had the ability to cut down the pain while helping him relax and sleep. He also revealed that he prefers indica-dominant strains as opposed to sativa that can be too stimulating. It also reveals that since these type of strains affect the mind more than the body, it would work best for MD too.
The Future of Cannabis of Muscular Dystrophy Treatment
There is both scientific and anecdotal evidence that demonstrates that cannabis is effective for some symptoms in MD for a certain group of people. Still, research that uses high-quality extracts of MD is needed badly and could definitely reveal a number of other benefits.