A video that has gone viral shows how Medical Marijuana can relieve the abnormal movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. I haven’t verified the authenticity of the video, but the results are intriguing. The man’s distorted movements, known as dyskinesia, disappear within minutes of treatment with Medicinal Marijuana.

Parkinson’s dyskinesias

Dyskinesias are different than the tremors and slowed movements of Parkinson’s. They appear as jerky, involuntary actions and they make it difficult for Parkinson’s patients to control their movements. They are a side effect of long-term Parkinson’s treatment, rather than a direct symptom of Parkinson’s disease and result from long-term therapy with levodopa, the active ingredient in most anti-Parkinson’s medication. Nearly half of individuals diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 59 develop dyskinesias within 5 years of treatment.
It’s unwise to draw conclusions from one person or, in this case, one video. However, the dramatic response to marijuana shown in this video has aroused much interest and inquiry, especially as few effective medical treatments for dsykinesias currently exist. Therefore, as a potential treatment for dyskinesias, Medical Marijuana would be welcomed by physicians and patients alike.

Dyskinesia not a qualifying Symptom for Medical Marijuana

In New York, Parkinson’s Disease is one of the approved conditions for Medical Marijuana treatment but dyskinesia is not currently included in the list of approved symptoms. To qualify for Medical Marijuana in New York, patients must also have an associated symptom such as disabling pain or spasticity. Therefore, a Parkinson’s patient seeking treatment for dyskinesia would not qualify. However, Parkinson’s patients who qualify for treatment for another associated symptom might also benefit from a reduction in dyskinesia.

Research on Marijuana and Parkinson’s Disease

Patients with Parkinson’s disease report several beneficial effects from smoking marijuana. A survey sent to 630 Parkinson’s patients revealed that about 1 in 4 had tried Medical Marijuana and continued to use it daily. Of these 85 patients, 14% reported improvements in dyskinesia, 31% in tremor and 45% in slowed movements. Other research on medical marijuana, however, doesn’t support symptom improvement in things like tremor and slowed movements but most studies do show improvements in dyskinesia. Moreover, the improvements in dyskinesia also appear to be more dramatic, even in studies that demonstrate benefits to other symptoms. For example, individuals rating dyskinesia and tremor symptoms before and after treatment (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the best and 10 being the worst) may say symptoms of dyskinesia decreased from 9 to 4, whereas their tremors only decreased from 9 to 8. In another study of 22 Parkinson’s patients in Israel, improvements in observed dyskinesias occurred within 30 minutes of smoking marijuana. It appears from these, and a handful of other studies, that dyskinesia symptoms respond better to cannabis than do other Parkinson’s symptoms.

More research on Medical Marijuana is needed

We need more research to establish Medical Marijuana as a conventional medical treatment for Parkinson’s disease. In general, little research exists on Medical Marijuana compared to other treatments approved by the FDA for Parkinson’s disease. Currently, Medical Marijuana is considered an alternative treatment but it is possible that it will become a conventional treatment in the future. On the other hand, future research could also reveal conclusive evidence that it doesn’t help. At this stage, it is just too early to tell.

Having said that, if a qualifying Parkinson’s patient were to experience a similar reduction in dyskinesia to that seen in the video, it would be nothing short of amazing!

Michael Morgenstern, MD

Michael Morgenstern, MD

Founder at NY Medical Marijuana Association
About the author: Dr. Michael Morgenstern is double board certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine. He works in private practice in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island and has extensive expertise treating patients with Medical Marijuana.
Michael Morgenstern, MD

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