Cannabis helping people with Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is an umbrella term used to describe a group of 30 inherited illnesses that affect how muscles function in the body. Muscular dystrophy generally results in the weakening of skeletal muscles and replaces normal muscle cells with fat and fibrosis.
Muscular dystrophy is caused by genetic mutations that interfere with the body’s ability to create proteins needed for healthy muscle. While there are different types of muscular dystrophy, the most common variety affects boys during childhood. Other kinds don’t manifest symptoms until the individual is well into adulthood. Some people who have muscular dystrophy will eventually be unable to walk, while others will have difficulties swallowing and breathing.
It is estimated that 1 in every 7,250 males are diagnosed with the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. There is no cure for the condition, although doctors prescribe medications to manage symptoms and prevent further complications. Corticosteroids are usually prescribed in an effort to improve muscle strength however prolonged use of these drugs can make the bones brittle, cause the patient to gain weight, and even increase their risk for developing fractures. Therapy is also prescribed, such as low-impact exercises, braces, breathing assistance, and mobility aids. In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct curves in the spine which makes breathing difficult.
How Cannabis Can Help
Muscular dystrophy occurs due to the absence of a protein needed for the proper functioning of muscles. The illness also causes muscle to be replaced by too much scar tissue and fat, causing muscles to appear larger than they really are. Oftentimes, patients with muscular dystrophy suffer from extreme pain.
Studies show that the compounds in cannabis can help people with muscular dystrophy. A 1977 study discovered that mice with muscular dystrophy showed improvements in their symptoms after they were administered with THC and CBD. These compounds can also benefit those suffering from the condition because involuntary muscle tightness and pain are common, and they regulate the release of central nervous system and neurotransmitters which help to alleviate pain.
There are also numerous anecdotal accounts of how cannabis has helped sufferers of muscular dystrophy. Chad Folsom from Denver is diagnosed with a rare form of the disease, and none of the medications that doctors prescribed worked for his debilitating condition. This prodded him to look for other more effective ways of coping with his illness. He says, “The pills never worked. I always knew, even from the first time, that there was something in cannabis. That it did something different to me that nothing else did. As I got older, in my late teens, I started learning the medical aspects of it.” Folsom also says how he liked that he could use as much cannabis as he wanted without worrying about side effects. “I can take as much as I want of this and it won’t hurt me.”
In New Jersey, a young man named Michael Oliveri whose muscular dystrophy brought him so much pain that he was wheelchair bound since he was in his teens. His medications failed to give him the relief that he needed so he began using medical cannabis which came from California. The pot helped him so much and improved his quality of life that he eventually moved to California.
In Virginia, a man named Ed Edgar suffered from muscular dystrophy for all of his life. The condition makes him suffer from chronic pain and weakness. He says, “The best description of the kind of pain is, if you’ve ever had the flu really bad, and you have that deep, aching pain. It’s like that.” Edgar said that doctors were willing to prescribe him any barbiturate that he wanted. “I have a prescription for Percocet and methadone. I take methadone every day and Percocet as needed.” Again, pharmaceutical medications failed to address his symptoms and he also suffered from its side effects. He says, “I can’t stand them. They make me sick as a dog every time I take them. But I have to take something to knock the edge off.” Edgar discovered that cannabis might be a potential alternative, as he was reading a magazine called Quest, which is published for people who have muscular dystrophy. The article said that cannabis may be one of the few things that could work to address the pain. About his cannabis use, Edgar said, “It’s one of the only things that works on me. The narcotics they give me basically knock me out. I can’t function. If I would take the drugs they give me, at the level they give me, I couldn’t work; I couldn’t do anything.”
While more scientific research is needed, we can’t deny the anecdotal evidence that cannabis can truly help improve the quality of life for people living with muscular dystrophy.
Have you used cannabis to help with muscular dystrophy? Share with us in the comments below.
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