Could cannabis help patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease?

Healthcare working holding person's hand

A pilot study being conducted at the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine is investigating a controversial topic – how cannabis, medicinal or recreational, is used, accessed and how it may benefit individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

Whilst recreational cannabis remains illegal in Australia, much of the research and thus the path to legalisation has been largely limited to the management of specific symptoms, such as pain.

Previous international research has shown some benefits of cannabis use in the improvement of both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that affects one in every 308 Australians.

Dr Andrea Bugarcic and Dr Janet Schloss from the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine are leading the study and urge all patients who might be eligible to participate in the survey which will run until the end of February 2021.

While research has been done on the topic of cannabis use in neurodegenerative diseases in other countries, this aspect of self-management by Parkinson’s Disease patients in Australia has not yet been explored.

“This survey is not just about knowing if cannabis is used by this population but also where they are sourcing it from and any ratio specifications to understand what is working in the context of positive patient outcomes,” said Dr Bugarcic.

“Black-market cannabis preparations are not standardised, and legal-access products are only standardised to CBD and THC; understanding the CBD:THC ratios may be important in understanding what preparation is alleviating different non-motor and motor symptoms experienced by Parkinson’s Disease patients.”

Dr Schloss is an experienced medicinal cannabis researcher and said that the survey aims to dispel common misconceptions and steer cannabis users away from potentially dangerous recommendations online.

“Cannabis is not currently prescribed for Australian patients with Parkinsons Disease, however it is extremely important to look at what people are currently doing, their attitudes and conduct a clinical trial so we know what does work and what doesn’t,” said Dr Schloss.

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