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Huntington Disease Symptoms & Cannabis

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

A recently published systematic review in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found that cannabis may help treat some of the symptoms associated with Huntington disease (HD). HD is an inherited neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive decline, affect dysfunction, physical deterioration, and uncontrolled movements (hyperkinesis).

The authors, Akinyemi and colleagues from the Saint James School of Medicine and Kean University, focused on cannabis' impact on specific symptoms, including: “emotional turmoil (depression, apathy, irritability, anxiety, obsessive behavior), cognitive loss (inability to focus, plan, recall or make decisions; impaired insight), and physical deterioration (weight loss, involuntary movements, diminished coordination, difficulty walking, talking, and swallowing).” They found that cannabis demonstrated therapeutic effects on hyperkinetic symptoms (spasms, tremors, chorea, and dystonia), was beneficial in treating pain associated with HD, and improved sleep quality.

A total of 22 articles were reviewed. Studies tested FDA-approved cannabinoids dronabinol (THC) and nabilone (THC), as well as nabiximols (Sativex®) and several formulations with varying ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD). As the authors were interested in studying the effects of cannabis on symptoms associated with HD, some of the articles were based on studies conducted on individuals with other conditions with similar symptom profiles, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), fibromyalgia, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), not just HD. Unfortunately, this means one of the limitations of the review is that many of the conclusions about cannabis’ efficacy in treating symptoms associated with HD stem from the study of disorders with similar symptomologies. In total, only 78 patients with HD participated in the 22 articles.

The authors propose that large-scale, randomized clinical trials are warranted to test the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating HD.

The Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences has more.

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