As the recognized uses of medical marijuana expand, more traditional research foundations are becoming interested in the possibilities of pot. On March 6 and 7, the Parkinson's Foundation will host its first-ever conference on medical marijuana...in Denver.
According to the 62-year-old organization, the conference will address potential risks and benefits of treating Parkinson's disease with MMJ by bringing together "a diverse group of experts from academia, clinics, industry, government and the Parkinson's community to establish a consensus on medical marijuana use in PD."
A disease that affects the brain's nerve cells, Parkinson's can cause muscle rigidity, tremors and changes in speech in those who suffer from it. It is the second-most-common neuro-degenerative disease behind Alzheimer’s, according to the Parkinson's Foundation, as well as the fourteenth leading cause of death in the country. Currently, there is no cure.
Although marijuana has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that protect brain cells, studies of the plant's potential to ease PD afflictions have demonstrated mixed results. That isn't stopping patients from trying medical marijuana or CBD medications to treat PD, however. According to a survey conducted by the Parkinson’s Foundation and Northwestern University, 80 percent of about sixty PD patients surveyed had tried marijuana for treatment, despite the fact that only 10 percent of physicians surveyed had prescribed medical marijuana for PD.
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“Now that medical marijuana is legal in 31 states and in many other countries, people are equating access to efficacy. It is imperative that we address the clinical implications of medical marijuana use among people with PD," Dr. James Beck, chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation, says in a statement announcing the conference.
The conference will have more Colorado connections than simply its location. University of Colorado Hospital associate professor Dr. Benzi Kluger is serving as co-chair of the gathering, which he hopes will serve as a call for more clinical research to help the families he works with.
“Having worked as a clinician for the past decade in Colorado, a state at the forefront of medical marijuana use, it is clear that people with PD and their families are intensely interested in the potential of marijuana and cannabinoids in helping manage symptoms and other aspects of their disease,” he explains. “To date, there is more hype than actual data to provide meaningful clinical information to patients with PD. There is a critical need to analyze existing data on medical marijuana and to set priorities for future research."
Although the conference is invite-only, the Parkinson's Foundation will publish highlights of the discussions and other details shortly after it's over. You can also learn more about medical marijuana and PD by calling 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) or visiting the foundation's website.