ALS Awareness Month: How Medical Marijuana Can Benefit You!
At Tennessee Marijuana Card, we do our best to shine a light on those who have been diagnosed with medical conditions that are not as well known. Today, we are focusing on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This disease is a tough one but our patients are tougher!
Although Tennessee does not have a fully functioning medical marijuana program currently, there has been a lot of movement in the state heading in the right direction! We don’t know which medical conditions will be qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment in Tennessee yet but ALS is one of the most common conditions so it could be on the list in the future.
May is ALS Awareness Month so today we will be getting you educated on the basics of ALS which will help us all be better allies to those in the ALS community. We will be going into detail about what ALS actually is, what the symptoms are, and who it affects.
Medical marijuana is a treatment that can help manage the symptoms that come with ALS. It also helps those diagnosed live better quality lives. There is even recent research showing that THC and CBD can potentially help slow the progression of ALS! Marijuana is a great treatment for ALS since there are specific medical marijuana strains that treat specific symptoms of ALS. Bet you can’t name a traditional medication that can do that!
Continue reading for more information on how medical marijuana can help ALS! You can also read more on our blog and stay connected to the Tennessee medical marijuana community.
The Basics of ALS:
Unfortunately, ALS is a terminal disease so patients hearing this diagnosis will fight to the very end. Just because there is no cure doesn’t mean that people with ALS can’t live quality lives! Medical marijuana treatment can be there to assist you every step of the way once it is fully legal in Tennessee.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.”
The origin of the words come from the Greek so let’s break down what these words mean in order to understand what ALS is. “A” means no, “myo” means muscle and “trophic” means nourishment. So the meaning of the word “amyotrophic” altogether means no muscle nourishment. Because the muscles in the body do not get proper nourishment, unfortunately, they waste away, or atrophy.
The L in ALS stands for “lateral” which points us to the spinal cord where nerve cells send out signals in order to control the body’s muscles. This process is impaired in ALS. Lastly, “sclerosis” indicates that this area will degenerate over time.
For people with ALS, their motor neurons eventually die off. Motor neurons are responsible for providing signals from the brain to our muscles in order for them to move. When these neurons die, muscle control is lost. This causes ALS patients to lose the ability to speak, eat, move and even breath.
Two Types of ALS:
There are two different types of ALS. The first is sporadic which is the most common form of ALS and accounts for over 90% of the cases. Sporadic ALS is exactly that; meaning it affects people randomly.
The second type of ALS is Familial, also known as FALS, which accounts for the rest of the cases and is inherited. Unfortunately, in these families, there is a 50% chance that each offspring will inherit the ALS gene mutation and, therefore, run the risk of developing ALS.
What are the Symptoms?
The onset of ALS is gradual overtime just like with a lot of other conditions. This means that people experience different signs when the condition is starting to reveal itself. Some can first have trouble holding a pen or holding a cup of tea, others can have trouble with speech or experience changes in their vocal chords.
Although ALS can look different in the beginning, there are constants that develop for everyone. The average lifespan after diagnosis is 3-5 years but there are some that have lived 5-10 years and even beyond!
Most of the time symptoms begin in the muscles that control speech and swallowing or are in the limbs. Muscle weakness over time universally leads to paralysis. When breathing muscles are impaired, those with ALS will need ventilatory support. The five senses are generally not affected and people usually have control over their eye muscles and bladder.
Below are some of the most common early symptoms of ALS:
General muscle weakness
Tripping or falling
Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Abnormal fatigue in limbs
Muscle cramps or twitching
Uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying
ALS Stats and Facts:
Here are some important stats and facts so we can all get educated on ALS:
Every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed and someone passes away from ALS.
Most people develop ALS between the ages of 40-70.
The average age of diagnosis is 55.
It is rare but sometimes people get diagnosed in their 20’s and 30’s.
ALS is 20% more common in men than women.
Military veterans are 2x more likely to be diagnosed with ALS, the reason for this is unknown.
ALS is also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player who played for the Yankees in the 1930s and was diagnosed with ALS.
ALS was discovered in 1869 by a French neurologist named Jean-Martin Charcot. Since then the science community has been searching for a cure ever.
One of the most well known people with ALS, other than Lou Gehrig, was Stephen Hawking. His story is incredible as he was diagnosed at 21 and lived more than 50 years while also making huge contributions to the scientific community.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help ALS?
Here at Tennessee Marijuana Card, we believe that people diagnosed with ALS should be able to live a quality life! Once Tennessee's medical marijuana program is up and running, getting your medical marijuana card with us can be your first step.
Medical marijuana is such a great treatment for ALS because there are specific strains that aid specific symptoms that come with ALS. Medical marijuana can help with muscle spasticity, chronic pain, lack of appetite as well anxiety and depression!
Muscle spasticity, or muscle stiffness, is a symptom of ALS. Spasticity interferes with daily life and makes walking and moving difficult. This is something medical marijuana can help with as it also is used to help those with multiple sclerosis who also manage spasticity.
Chronic pain is also very common for those with ALS. Chronic pain is actually the number one use for medical marijuana treatment! Medical marijuana treatment is great for chronic pain since it enhances the body's natural cannabinoids which in turn relieves pain.
Those with ALS can often experience appetite loss too. We all know marijuana can give you the “munchies.” This can actually help ALS patients! Certain strains of marijuana can help give you the desire to eat and it has been used to help treat HIV/AIDS and cachexia.
Mental health issues as a result of ALS that are often less discussed. Many of those with ALS also struggle with depression and anxiety. Medical marijuana has been found to help depression and anxiety which can give ALS patients a better quality of life!
THC & CBD’s Effects on ALS Progression:
THC and CBD are the two most well known chemical compounds in marijuana. THC and CBD are compounds that bind to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. THC is the compound that makes you feel that euphoric or “high” feeling typically associated with marijuana use.
There have been some new studies that showed THC can potentially slow down the progression of ALS! Although this research is in the early stages of development, it is very exciting. More research on these results can make medical marijuana a more viable option for those battling ASL and could potentially lengthen their life expectancy.
This same study also looked at CBD’s role in ALS progression. Even though CBD was not shown to slow the disease down, it does still help! CBD is an anti-inflammatory and a natural pain reliever so it aids ALS patients by helping their symptoms.
Specific Strains for Specific Symptoms:
Medical marijuana comes in many different strains. The effect that marijuana has on the body is dependent on the strain, the terpene profile and the levels of THC, CBD or both that are in it. Below is a list of symptoms related to ALS and also a list of specific strains that can help combat them! When Tennessee’s medical marijuana program is up and running, you can head to your local dispensary to pick some of these up.
Muscle issue including spasticity and pain:
Super Sour OG
Depression and anxiety:
Girl Scout Cookies
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At Tennessee Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5611, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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