Scientific evidence: Cannabis and ALS

The benefits of Cannabis to treat ALS is prevalent in anecdotal evidence, but basic laboratory and animal research suggests that THC may be the first (and only?) naturally occurring, non-toxic, anti-oxidant to slow the progressions of the disease significantly. In addition to delaying the progression of disease and increasing life-span cannabinoids treatments may offer other benefits include sleep induction, appetite stimulation, saliva reduction, bronchodilation, analgesia, and muscle relaxation (Carter). The human clinical studies on THC-only Cannabis are limited by sample size. Research regulations for clinical use of THC also make it difficult to recruit ALS patients in a timely manner for a controlled study. Despite these significant obstacles, two human studies have been conducted. One of the studies, was a pilot study investigating the safety and tolerability of THC in ALS patients (Gelinas/ABood 2002). This clinical study confirmed symptomatic benefits for appetite, insomnia, and spasticity. The second research study was conducted as an anonymous survey in 80 countries, 131 surveys were completed, and the mean age 54. Participants reported that Cannabis helped provide relief from drooling, speech and swallowing difficulty, appetite loss, weakness, shortness of breath, spasticity, depression, and pain (Amtmann D 2004). In animals with ALS, THC administered either before or after the onset of the disease delayed motor impairment and prolonged survival. Furthermore, THC potently reduced oxidative and excite-toxic damage in spinal cord cultures in vitro (Raman et al. 2004). The protective effects of cannabinoids and their anti-spastic effects in MS are well known (Carter 2001). Furthermore, cannabinoid receptors are up-regulated in human tissue during disease progression, making them an abundant target for treatment.

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