Cerebral palsy is a condition that manifests itself during early childhood and results in motor control problems. These permanent movement disorders can lead to many other potential side-effects such as stiff or weak muscles, sensory impairment or tremors. Conditions can vary considerably and a research facility in Israel has taken it upon itself to see if medical marijuana can assist in relieving some of these symptoms.
The study that began about three years ago, has shown that medical marijuana does offer significant amounts of relief, in particular with motor control. The research suggests that THC, the active cannabinoid found in marijuana that has psychoactive effects, is the compound that most helps with motor control issues. Research eventually led to administering a concentrated extract that also contained CBD to counteract a lot of the euphoria created by THC.
The conditions of children suffering from cerebral palsy are significantly improving following treatment with medical marijuana, according to a study done by Wolfson Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel.
According to the interim findings, treatment with cannabis oil reduced symptoms and improved children’s motor skills. It also improved their sleep quality, bowel movements and general mood.
The study of 40 children, conducted with the MMJ company Tikun Olam, began around three years ago. So far, 36 children between the ages of one through 17 have taken part. Twenty have completed the testing stage, and a vast majority of them are continuing treatment with medical marijuana.
“We included the hardest cases in the study, with the highest level of motor disorders,” said child neurologist Luba Blumkin, who is leading the project.
“Usually the motor disorder comes with other problems, like problems with bowel movements that cause pain, orthopedic problems that cause pain, and problems in swallowing and chewing, which make it necessary to feed some of the children by tube directly into the stomach,” said Blumkin. “The pain, which increases with time, causes sleeping problems and makes treatment difficult because every touch is painful.”
During the first two months of the study, researchers examined whether there were any changes in each child’s condition. After two months of stability, the children received cannabis oil three times a day orally or through a feeding tube, along with their regular medication.
“We used several evaluation indexes for the treatment’s effectiveness, such as the effect on the spasticity (muscle contraction), dystonia (involuntary movement) and motor changes, like if the child rolls over or stretches his hand out better. We also checked effects like mood, sleep, constipation, pain and quality of life,” Blumkin told Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz.
Three to four months later, the children’s conditions improved.
“The most prominent difference statistically was in motor function,” said Blumkin. “There was also less pain and improvement in sleep and bowel movements.”
While, the cannabis oil is not expected to replace the children’s other medications, researchers see it as an effective supplement.
“[A]ccording to what we’ve seen so far, it’s safe and has no side effects,” said Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, a research manager at Tikun Olam. “But it can’t be used as the only treatment. Now, we have to find the most effective way to provide the marijuana treatment.”
The study tested the effectiveness of two cannabis oils with different proportions of THC and CBD.
“The THC’s effect is especially relevant to motor function, whether it’s Parkinson’s disease or other motor symptoms,” noted Bar-Lev Schleider. “But the THC is also responsible for the psychoactive effect, so we picked a variety that also has a lot of CBD, which moderates the euphoric effect.”
The U.S.-based Cerebral Palsy Guidance page laments the fact that federal guidelines continue to make it difficult for scientists in our country to conduct in-depth research.