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Using Cannabis In The Fight Against ALS

Submitted by: Corie Kovach, MD, FACOG, MBA


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common degenerative motor neuron disease of the
central nervous system (CNS). Its hallmark is a relentless progression of muscle wasting and weakness
that ensues until the individual typically becomes unable to breath resulting in eventual death. Patients
may initially present with various clinical symptoms including, but not limited to, muscle weakness
and/or spasticity, weight loss/muscle loss, speech disorder, swallowing difficulty, drooling, pain, and
mobility issues.
The incidence of ALS is approximately 1-3 cases per 100,000 individuals; and it exists in two forms:
sporadic, which is 90% of the cases and familial, which is 10% of the cases. The pathogenesis (cause) of
ALS is still pending complete identification because of multiple contributing factors that complicate the
medical explanation, including the following: oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, protein
aggregration, and exitotoxic damage, genetic predisposition, and endocannabinoid receptors/cannabis
treatment or use.
Cannabinoids have been shown in multiple animal and human studies to have antioxidant, anti-
inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects in the preclinical models of central nervous system disease.
They also inhibit oxidative and nitrosative stress. At the same time, glutamate release is inhibited and
GABA (neurotransmitter) is increased. Cannabinoids inhibit the release of proinflammatory cytokines
and chemokines and serve as a neuroprotective agent in ALS. THC improves motor impairment and
protects against excitotoxicity. THC increases survival by 5% in animal and human studies. CBN
(cannabinol) delays disease onset of ALS in mice models and disease progression was diminished as well
as animal survival was improved.
More studies are being done on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system and Sativex and the
treatment of ALS. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions regarding this unfortunate
diagnosis or any way that we can be of assistance:

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