Researchers from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany have found that cannabis products may produce beneficial clinical effects in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
During the study, the researchers sought to assess patient perceptions of medicinal cannabis and evaluate the experiences of those already using the products. To do so, they conducted a nationwide, cross-sectional questionnaire-based survey among members of the German Parkinson Association in April 2019.
All in all, they received responses from 1,300 patients. From the responses, 8% of patients reported already be using cannabinoids with over half of these users (54%) reporting positive clinical effects therefrom.
In particular, 40% of users reported that it helped them manage pain and muscle cramps, with over 20% reporting it to have reduced stiffness, freezing, tremors, depression, anxiety and restless legs. They additionally reported that while inhaling cannabis products containing THC was more efficient for stiffness, oral products were slightly better tolerated.
The researchers noted that those using cannabis tended to be younger. They also tended to live in large cities and have more awareness of the legal and clinical aspects of medicinal cannabis. While 65% of non-users were interested in using medicinal cannabis for their condition, they reported that a lack of knowledge and a fear of negative side effects were the main reasons for having not already tried.
The researchers concluded that patients with Parkinson's disease have a high interest in medicinal cannabis treatment, however, a lack of knowledge on the substance was a major barrier towards them taking it. They noted for example that just 9% of the respondents were aware of the difference between THC and CBD.
As such, the researchers recommend physicians to consider these aspects when advising patients about treatment with medicinal cannabis. Their results, they say, may also help physicians decide which patients could benefit most from the treatment, which symptoms may be addressed, and which type of cannabinoid and route of administration are preferable.
"Cannabis intake might be related to a placebo effect because of high patient expectations and conditioning, but even that can be considered as a therapeutic effect. It has to be stressed, though, that our findings are based on subjective patient reports and that clinically appropriate studies are urgently needed," says Dr. Carsten Buhmann, lead author of the study.