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  • Olivia Castro

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month: How Medical Marijuana Can Help You!

Although Tennessee’s medical marijuana program is not up and running yet. There are 16 legislative bills that are in the process of being approved right now in the House or the Senate! This is huge for Tennessee. The passage of important legislation can allow medical marijuana to be fully legalized in the state and marijuana in general be decriminalized!

Right now, since Tennessee does not have an active medical marijuana program yet, we do not know yet how potential patients would be able to qualify for medical marijuana treatment. One way is if Tennessee gets approved to be what we consider an “all conditions” state. This means that all medical conditions can qualify you for medical marijuana treatment as long as you have a doctor’s recommendation (which we could help you with)! The second way people could qualify in the future for medical marijuana is by being diagnosed with a specific qualifying condition that is on the list of approved conditions for the state. There are common qualifying conditions in other states that have passed medical marijuana which could be on Tennessee’s future qualifying conditions list.

There are dozens upon dozens of different medical conditions that medical marijuana can be used for. Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common. As April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we are bringing together this blog post for you to get all the information that you need to get educated and spread awareness about Parkinson’s, to donate to charities and, ultimately, to find support for you or any loved ones you may have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a “neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brains called substantia nigra.” That sounds like a lot so what does this actually look like for those diagnosed? For a person with Parkinson’s, this looks like tremors at rest (usually pill rolling tremors), bradykinesia (or slow movement), limb rigidity and gait or balance problems.

Although these are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s, this condition is very diverse and looks different on everyone. It also usually takes years to diagnose due to slow progression. The progression, as well, differs from person to person.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease although researchers are hard at work. Right now the most common treatment for those diagnosed are medications and surgeries. Parkinson’s is also not fatal but the complications that come with the disease can be. While this disease comes with its challenges, it is absolutely possible to live a high quality of life when diagnosed with Parkinson’s! It is important to work with your doctor and find the treatment that can work best for you.

Catching this condition often happens later in the course of the disease, which is why spreading awareness is so imperative. This is when people start to see symptoms since a significant amount of substantia nigra neurons have been damaged or lost completely. Researchers are working on ways to identify biomarkers for Parkinson’s so that early detection can be possible leading to quicker diagnosis and treatment to slow down the disease.

Movement Symptoms & Non-Movement Symptoms

Movement symptoms and non-movement symptoms are two classifications of the symptoms that come with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Most people associate tremors to Parkinson’s as this is the most obvious symptom. Tremors cause slow, stiffening movements which adds to the three telltale signs of Parkinson’s. The three main symptoms are bradykinesia (slow movement), rigidity and tremors. Bradykinesia must be present with either tremors or rigidity for a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Movement symptoms are caused by the impairment of dopamine cells. These cells are messengers that are responsible for controlling movement, the ability to feel pleasure or pain and emotional responses in the body. As Parkinson’s progresses, the brain stops making dopamine altogether which is what gives rise to movement problems in patients.

As tremors are the most obvious and well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s, non-movement symptoms are typically overlooked by those who are not directly affected by the condition. Although non-motor symptoms may be less clear, they are very common and add to an already stressful disorder. Non-motor symptoms can include loss of smell or taste, depression, anxiety, disordered sleeping, fatigue and much more. These symptoms can start to reveal themselves long before an actual Parkinson’s diagnosis. This is another reason why awareness is key!

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

There is not one single cause of Parkinson’s disease but, just like many other diseases, genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors act together. Since Parkinson’s is such a diverse condition, it is impossible to point to a single cause but instead the research points to some similarities that Parkinson’s patients have.

Genetics account for about 10-15% of all Parkinson’s diagnosis as over the years researchers have shown gene mutations that have links to Parkinson’s. These findings have resulted in a national initiative that offers free genetic testing for genes related to Parkinson’s and counseling to help participants understand their results!

Environmental factors play a role in Parkinson’s too as the relationship between genes and the environment are complex. Some environmental exposures can increase one’s risk of Parkinson’s but, on the other hand, some can decrease the risk. Some risk factors that have been linked to Parkinson’s are head injuries, location of residence, and even exposure to pesticides.

Looking at these factors separately can help, but overall, genetic, lifestyle and environmental forces all play a role together in the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

What Are Some of the Statistics?

Here are some important stats that will help spread Parkinson’s awareness:

How Can Medical Marijuana Help Parkinson’s Disease?

The numbers above don’t lie. Parkinson’s disease affects hundreds of thousands of people in the world and the cost of treatment and surgery is enormous. This leaves many Parkinson’s patients to take their health care into their own hands. This is why Tennessee passing a medical marijuana program that included Parkinson’s patients is crucial!

Medical marijuana is a great treatment addition for many Parkinson’s patients. Unfortunately with the traditional Parkinson’s medications, there also comes many side effects. Medical marijuana can offer a relief solution for not only these negative side effects but for many aspects of the disease itself.

So it is time to get down to the science behind why medical marijuana can help treat Parkinson’s disease! Cannabinoids are the compounds that are in medical marijuana. There can be up to 60 cannabinoids present at a time depending on the strain. Cannabinoids are not only present in marijuana but the brain also makes cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is responsible for homeostasis (or balance) throughout the whole body. The ECS in the brain has receptors that interact with the cannabinoids found in marijuana. This can help with inflammation, pain management and movement coordination. The receptors in the brain bind to the cannabinoids which can affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including dopamine. In some cases, cannabinoids can even mimic dopamine in the brain, binding to the same receptors and acting the same way as natural dopamine. This is all great for Parkinson’s patients!

Medical marijuana can also help through the use of CBD specifically! Using CBD can help Parkinson’s patients bring that balance back to their endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is super important for patients since the ECS plays a vital role in the creation of dopamine in the brain! For Parkinson’s patients, a majority of dopamine-producing neurons are damaged or lost over time so anything that can help with this is crucial.

CBD is a marijuana form that produces antioxidants and neuroprotectants effects meaning that CBD can help create protection against damage or death. It can also stimulate receptor activation which is how CBD helps regulate the ECS so that the system can provide more efficient regulation.

CBD is a great medical marijuana treatment option! As Parkinson’s is an age-related disorder, the population is older and may not wish to experience the typical “high” effect that is associated with marijuana use. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces that psychoactive effect. CBD, on the other hand, has all the medicinal properties without the psychoactive effect. This solution is perfect for people who do not want to experience a “high” and need the benefits of medical marijuana throughout the day!

How Can I Spread Awareness?

There are plenty of ways to support those who have Parkinson’s disease. Below are a few great ways to get involved and start spreading awareness:

Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

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.

Call us at (833) 781-5611, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

Check out Tennessee Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information!

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