Parkinson's Patients and Cannabis Use

Only limited studies have been conducted on cannabis’ efficacy at treating Parkinson’s disease, but there has been significant interest in using it as a tool for symptom management. According to survey findings presented at the Movement Disorders Society Virtual Congress 2020 and published on the preprint server medRxiv, cannabis use appears to be quite widespread among patients with Parkinson’s diseases, with 24.5 percent of participants claiming that they have used cannabis within the past 6 months. A total of 1,064 patients took part in the online survey in January of this year.


Additional findings from the survey paint a complex picture of how patients are using cannabis. It seems that a significant percentage of are using cannabis for non-motor symptoms for which prescription medications provide inadequate relief. Significant minorities used cannabis to treat symptoms like anxiety (45.5%), pain (44.0%), and sleep disorders (44.0%). A significant minority (23.0%) also reported that they had stopped using cannabis within the past 6 months because it had not improved their symptoms.


These findings indicate that cannabis may be able to play a role in symptom management for some patients with Parkinson’s disease, but it is most certainly not a silver bullet and may not be for everyone. For physicians and patients seeking guidance, a review of the Consensus Statement on the Use of Medical Cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease, which was issued by the Parkinson’s Foundation, is recommended.


It is also worth noting that, to date, there have only been four small, randomized trials involving the use of cannabinoids to treat Parkinson's disease, and they have produced inconclusive results. No randomized clinical trials support the efficacy of cannabis for the treatment of motor or non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Despite this lack of conclusive evidence, it is a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in multiple states (including Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia) and three territories (the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).


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