Factors to consider when treating neurodegenerative diseases

Factors to Consider When Treating Neurodegenerative Diseases

Types of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Overlaps

Neurodegenerative diseases encompass a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). These diseases may present overlapping symptoms such as cognitive decline, motor impairment, and difficulties in speech. Treatment modalities often have points of intersection, especially when targeting symptom relief.

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease: Primarily manifests as memory loss and cognitive decline. Common treatments include Donepezil and Rivastigmine (Birks, 2006).
  2. Parkinson’s Disease: Characterized by tremors, stiffness, and slow movement. Common treatments include Levodopa and Pramipexole (Connolly & Lang, 2014).
  3. Multiple Sclerosis: Affects the central nervous system causing various motor and sensory problems. Corticosteroids are often prescribed (Rae-Grant et al., 2018).
  4. ALS: A rapidly progressive disease affecting motor neurons. Riluzole is a commonly prescribed medication (Miller et al., 2012).

Existing Treatments: OTC and Prescription

Treatment approaches can vary from over-the-counter (OTC) supplements like vitamins to prescription medications, which include oral pills, nasal sprays, and injectables. Non-pharmacological interventions such as physical therapy, lifestyle modification, and diet are also important considerations.

Cannabinoid Options

Cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) offer alternative therapeutic pathways. THC products may have psychoactive or euphoric effects, whereas CBD is non-euphoric. Timing for onset of action and duration varies, with inhaled forms acting quickly but for shorter periods, and oral forms taking longer to act but having extended effects (MacCallum & Russo, 2018).

Comparison Table
FormulationOnset TimeDurationApplicationEuphoriaApplicable Diseases
THC Oral30-90 min4-12 hrsPillYesAll
CBD Oral30-90 min4-12 hrsPillNoAll
THC Inhaled1-3 min2-4 hrsVaporYesAll
CBD Topical20-40 min2-6 hrsCreamNoMS, ALS
Ibuprofen15-30 min4-6 hrsPillNoN/A
Nasal CorticosteroidsImmediateLong-termNasal SprayNoMS

Interactions and Overlaps

Patients should exercise caution when combining cannabinoid therapies with other medications, as they can affect liver enzyme activity and alter the effectiveness or side effects of other drugs (Zendulka et al., 2016).

Special Note for Certain Medical Conditions

Patients with certain medical conditions, such as liver disease, cardiovascular issues, or a history of substance use disorders, should consult Dr. Caplan at CED Clinic for specialized, thoughtful care in cannabinoid therapy.


  1. Birks, J. (2006). Cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1.
  2. Connolly, B., & Lang, A. E. (2014). Pharmacological treatment of Parkinson disease: A review. JAMA, 311(16), 1670–1683.
  3. Rae-Grant, A., Day, G. S., Marrie, R. A., Rabinstein, A., Cree, B. A. C., Gronseth, G. S., … & Armstrong, M. J. (2018). Practice guideline recommendations summary: Disease-modifying therapies for adults with multiple sclerosis: Report of the Guideline Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 90(17), 777-788.
  4. Miller, R. G., Jackson, C. E., Kasarskis, E. J., England, J. D., Forshew, D., Johnston, W., … & Woolley, S. C. (2012). Practice parameter update: The care of the patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Multidisciplinary care, symptom management, and cognitive/behavioral impairment (an evidence-based review): Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 73(15), 1227-1233.
  5. MacCallum, C. A., & Russo, E. B. (2018). Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 49, 12-19.
  6. Zendulka, O., Dovrtělová, G., Nosková, K., Turjap, M., Šulcová, A., Hanuš, L., & Juřica, J. (2016). Cannabinoids and Cytochrome P450 Interactions. Current Drug Metabolism, 17(3), 206-226.

Please note, this article is for informational purposes and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for personalized treatment options.

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Summary Notes

Considerations for Treating Neurodegenerative Diseases with Cannabis

Treating neurodegenerative diseases with cannabis involves navigating a complex landscape of clinical, legal, and ethical considerations. As research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease progresses, understanding the multifaceted factors involved is crucial for clinicians, patients, and caregivers alike.

The role of CBD in managing neurodegenerative symptoms has garnered significant attention due to its potential neuroprotective properties and lack of psychoactive effects. THC, while beneficial for some symptoms such as pain and muscle spasticity, requires careful consideration due to its psychoactive nature, especially in elderly populations.

Dosage considerations are paramount when integrating cannabis into treatment plans for neurodegenerative conditions. A personalized approach, taking into account the patient’s condition, symptom severity, and potential drug interactions, is essential for optimizing efficacy and minimizing adverse effects.

The safety profile of medical cannabis, particularly in long-term use, remains a topic of ongoing research. While cannabis may offer symptom relief and improved quality of life for some patients, understanding the potential risks, especially in vulnerable populations, is critical.

Legal aspects also play a significant role in the accessibility and regulation of cannabis for neurodegenerative diseases. With laws varying widely by jurisdiction, navigating the legal landscape is a necessary part of implementing cannabis-based therapies.

Patient experiences can provide valuable insights into the real-world effectiveness and tolerability of cannabis for neurodegenerative disorders. These anecdotes, alongside data from clinical trials, contribute to a growing body of evidence supporting the cautious use of cannabis in this patient population.

As the scientific community continues to explore the therapeutic applications of cannabis in neurodegenerative diseases, the need for comprehensive, evidence-based guidelines becomes increasingly apparent. Such guidelines should address not only the potential benefits but also the ethical considerations and challenges of treating these complex conditions with cannabis.

In summary, while cannabis presents promising therapeutic avenues for neurodegenerative diseases, a careful and informed approach is essential. Balancing the potential benefits with safety concerns, legal regulations, and individual patient needs is key to maximizing the therapeutic potential of cannabis in this challenging field of medicine.

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