Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly referred to as ALS, is one of those rare neurological disorders that has no known cure, and for the most part doesn’t have a known cause. It is defined as the withering away of the muscles due to the degeneration of the spinal cord nerves to which the muscles attach.
The conventional therapeutic treatment of ALS is to suppress inflammation and oxidative stress while providing neuro-protectivity. CBD possesses all of these properties and can be used as a single administration drug or monotherapy for improving the symptoms of ALS.
Many people all around the world were unaware of ALS until 2015. A Facebook campaign going by the name of the “ice bucket challenge,” as you might recall, was launched in 2015 to raise awareness of this disease. People across the world, including celebrities, were having buckets of ice thrown over them to symbolize the dying nerve endings feeling that ALS sufferers have to go through on a daily basis.
The campaign quickly went viral and has been one of the most successful campaigns in Facebook history, raising over $100 million and leading to the discovery of some really groundbreaking research.
Overview of ALS
ALS is a frightening disease which affects more than 5,000 Americans every year. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is a condition that destroys the nerve cells that control muscles. ALS patients progressively experience weakness that hinders their movement, swallowing, speech, and breathing.
ALS affects nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain, and motor cortex, that are responsible for the control of voluntary muscles. It is a disease that prevents the brain neurons from getting proper nourishment and therefore eventually results in their demise. In turn, the brain isn’t able to initiate and control muscles, and the voluntary movement is lost. Sufferers of ALS can lose the ability to eat, speak, move, and breathe.
The cause of ALS continues to be unknown. There are two types of ALS – familial and sporadic. According to the ALS Association, 90 to 95% of all ALS cases in the United States is sporadic. Familial ALS is inherited and accounts for between 5 and 10% of ALS cases in the U.S. It is also reported that ALS most commonly affects people aged between 40 and 70 years, and it’s 20% more likely to develop in men than in woman.
There is no known cure for ALS and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke report that most people who develop the disease end up dying from respiratory failure within three to five years of the start of symptoms. Since there isn’t a cure, treatment of ALS aims to slow down the damage to motor neurons with the aid of the medication riluzole. However, riluzole doesn’t reverse neuron damage that has already been done and only prolongs survival for several months.
Doctors also commonly prescribe medications to help ease muscle cramps, combat fatigue, reduce excess saliva and phlegm, and minimize muscle spasms. They might also prescribe medications to help with sleep problems, constipation, pain, and depression.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of ALS
CBD is known to have several effects in the body which allows it to ease the symptoms of ALS. First off, it reduces the production of saliva. ALS patients have the inability to control their muscle movements, and this includes muscles of the mouth. When this occurs, patients could accumulate too much saliva in their mouth. The fact that CBD helps to reduce the production of saliva means that the body will make use of the limited saliva that is produced to carry out its digestive functions and stop patients from drooling.
Furthermore, CBD helps to relax the body muscles. As we’ve established, this is the opposite effect of ALS. Those who suffer from ALS experience the contraction of body muscles often, and this causes symptoms such as twitching. CBD works because it produces the opposite effect.
ALS patients suffer from immense pain in their body because of a neuromuscular malfunction. Muscular dysfunction is usually very painful and uncomfortable, and the worst part is that ALS patients can’t control it. CBD is a great pain-relieving substance for these patients since it’s been proven to reduce chronic pain. Here are a few of the other symptoms that CBD helps with:
- Bronchodilation: CBD opens up the airways, therefore, making it easier for ALS sufferers to breathe.
- Appetite stimulation: Sickness often leads to a loss of appetite, and the case is no different with ALS. Similar to THC, CBD can cause users to feel hungry after consumption, making it easier for patients to eat
- Inducing sleep: CBD can make users sleepy which is great for people who are in pain and may find it difficult to both fall asleep and stay asleep.
In addition to the above, there have been incredible anecdotal accounts from people who have used cannabis, but more specifically CBD, to treat ALS. Perhaps the most famous of these accounts is the story of Cathy Jordan, which was published by The Examiner.
Cathy experienced her first symptoms of ALS back in 1985, and she was officially diagnosed with the condition a year later. At the time, her neurologist gave her three to five years to live, and since this was before the existence of riluzole, there was practically no treatment options available.
Thankfully, Cathy happened to come across cannabis and realized that she had nothing to lose by trying it. Ultimately, this decision ended up saving her life. For the last thirty-plus years, Cathy has been living a relatively normal lifestyle as an ALS patient, which is practically unheard of in the medical world. She gives all the credit to the healing properties of cannabis and believes that it should be fully legalized for all those who are suffering in silence.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on ALS
It’s important to note that CBD is not a cure for ALS. While it has the potential to influence the molecular course of the condition and its pathophysiology, to date there haven’t been any clinical trials done to show its direct impact.
However, while there haven’t been any clinical trials done, there have been multiple high-profile studies that have been published which show very positive signs.
One of these studies was published in 2017 and observed the positive effects on the condition of a male ALS patient, aged 40-years, who self-medicated with cannabis. In addition, researchers with the European Journal of Pharmacology successfully created a mouse with a model form of ALS and observed delayed progression of the condition after the activation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor – which CBD is known to have significant interaction with. This study mimics the results of a similar study that was published in 2004, showcasing the delayed disease progression in mice afflicted with ALS by using CBD as a treatment.
Preclinical trials in 2010 indicated that cannabis has powerful anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidative effects. This led to delayed onset, prolonged neuronal cell survival, and slower progression of the disease in lab mice. The lives of these mice were extended by six days which is equivalent to three years for humans. This same 2010 study found that cannabis has symptom-reducing properties such as analgesic (pain relief), saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, sleep induction, and bronchodilation, etc.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat ALS
The treatment of ALS is based on managing symptoms like pain, depression, loss of appetite, and muscle spasms. Preclinical data indicate that cannabis, particularly CBD, has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and neuroprotective effects. From a pharmacological perspective, CBD is remarkably safe with no possibility of overdose or physical addiction.
Researchers have noted time and again that cannabis is pharmacologically very safe because it poses an exceptionally low risk of physical addiction or overdose. ALS is a disorder that has few treatment options on offer. There isn’t a cure and even managing symptoms can be difficult. CBD has the potential to be an integral part of the medical fight against ALS.
How to Take CBD for ALS
As always, you should only use CBD in the treatment of ALS after consulting with a physician. The amount of CBD to administer will depend on multiple factors. For instance; if the disease is still in its early stages, then the amount of CBD to be used will be less than for those patients who lived with the disease for a longer period of time. Also, certain patients may experience lower levels of pain compared to others, which means that they won’t need as much CBD for pain relief.
If used correctly, CBD can be an incredible option for plenty of people. However, always remember that every person is different and everyone will have a different reaction to CBD. The recommended dosage of each product may differ greatly, and this can cause serious confusion. The dosage can differ depending on the type of CBD oil that you are using. But, on average, 25 mg of CBD would be effective for most people. For strong symptoms, you can increase the dosage slowly over the period of a week, until the symptoms start to feel better. Of course, this is different for every patient and should be monitored.
Final Thoughts on CBD for ALS
In conclusion, CBD is great when it comes to easing the symptoms of ALS. Since this disease causes a lot of discomfort and pain, it’s important that this is reduced, to prolong a patients life expectancy and allow them to suffer much less. CBD has certain properties that relax the body muscle and ease the pain which is vital for ALS patients.