The following information is presented for educational purposes only.
Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an
understanding of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to
third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these
organizations by Medical Marijuana Inc. and none should be inferred.
Muscular dystrophies are a group of genetic diseases characterized by
progressive muscle weakness and degeneration that primarily affect young
boys. Studies have shown that marijuana helps reduce the pain and
involuntary muscle contractions associated with the disease.
Overview of Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a collection of genetic diseases that progressive
degeneration of the skeletal muscles. The cause of muscular dystrophy is
a defective gene, which is sometimes inherited, that causes damaged
muscle fibers and muscle weakness.
There are many types of muscular dystrophy. The most common one is
Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which accounts for about half of muscular
dystrophy cases and typically affects boys, with symptoms of frequent
falling, muscle pain and stiffness and waddling gait commonly appearing
between the ages of 2 and 3. Myotonic is the most common type of
muscular dystrophy that affects adults, and it is characterized by an
inability to relax muscles after they contract. Other types of muscular
dystrophy include Becker, Fascioscapulohumeral, Congenital,
Emery-Dreifuss and Limb-girdle.
With muscular degeneration come additional complications like the
inability to walk, contractions, breathing problems, scoliosis, and
heart problems and swallowing problems.
While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, treatment can help to
manage the disease’s associated symptoms and slow its progression.
Corticosteroid medications and exercising helps to improve muscle
strength and slow the disease’s progression.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Muscular Dystrophy
Cannabis can help those with muscular dystrophy to manage the pain and
involuntary muscle tightness commonly associated with the disease.
Two major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and
cannabidiol (CBD), effectively lower pain because they activate the two
main cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system
within the body. These receptors regulate the release of
neurotransmitter and central nervous system immune cells to manage pain
levels (Woodhams, Sagar, Burston & Chapman, 2015). Cannabis has even
been found to significantly improve neuropathic pain in patients who had
previously attempted to treat their discomfort with more conventional
methods (Wilsey, et al., 2013). One study found that smoking cannabis
three times daily for five days reduced the intensity of chronic pain
and improved sleep (Ware, et al., 2010).
Along with pain, muscle spasm (involuntary muscle tightness) is the most
common reason that medical cannabis is recommended and prescribed by
medical professionals (Borgelt, Franson, Nussbaum & Wang, 2013).
Evidence suggests that, like pain, cannabinoid-induced reductions in
muscle tremors and spasticity are due to the activation of the CB1 and
CB2 receptors (Pertwee, 2002). Studies have demonstrated that medical
cannabis offers significant improvements in muscle spasticity, both in
mice trials and in human subjects (Borgelt, Franson, Nussbaum & Wang,
2013) (Baker, et al., 2000).
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Muscular Dystrophy
Currently, just Illinois, Louisiana, New
Hampshire and New
approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of muscular
A number of other states, however, will consider allowing medical
marijuana to be used for the treatment of muscular dystrophy with the
recommendation of a physician. These states include: California (any
debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been
recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other
medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer
Protection), Massachusetts (other
conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s
physician), Nevada (other
conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other
conditions subject to approval), Rhode
conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any
“terminal or debilitating condition”).
D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as
a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
In addition, 16 states have approved medical marijuana for the treatment
of spasms (contractions/tightness), which can be a symptom associated
with Myotonic and Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophies. These states
include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New
Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode
Island and Washington.
Several states have approved medical marijuana specifically to treat
“chronic pain.” These
states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New
Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island and Vermont.
The states of Nevada, New
Dakota, Montana, Ohio and Vermont allow
medical marijuana to treat “severe pain.” The states of Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington have
approved cannabis for the treatment of “intractable pain.”
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on Muscular Dystrophy
Cannabis significantly improved neuropathic pain that had resisted
previous conventional treatments.
Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves neuropathic pain.
Baker, D., Pryce, G., Croxford, J.L., Brown, P., Pertwee, R.G., Huffman,
J.W., and Layward, L. (2000, March 2). Cannabinoids control spasticity
and tremor in a multiple sclerosis model. Nature,
Borgelt, L.M., Franson, K.L., Nussbaum, A.M., and Wang, G.S. (2013,
February). The pharmacologic and clinical effects of medical cannabis. Pharmacotherapy,
Muscular dystrophy. (2014, November 27). Mayo
Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscular-dystrophy/basics/definition/con-20021240.
NINDS Muscular Dystrophy Information Page (2015, September 24). National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/md/md.htm.
Pertwee, R.G. (2002, August). Cannabinoids and multiple sclerosis. Pharmacology
Ware, M.A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., Robinson, A., Ducruet, T., Huynh, T.,
Gamsa, A., Bennett, G.J., and Collet, J.P. (2010, October 5). Smoked
cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trial. Canadian
Medical Association Journal,
Wilsey, B., Marcotte, T., Deutsch, R., Gouaux, B., Sakai, S., and
Donaghe, H. (2013, February). Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly
improves neuropathic pain. Journal
Woodhams, S.G., Sagar, D.R., Burston, J.J., and Chapman, V. (2015). The
role of the endocannabinoid system in pain. Handbook
of Experimental Pharmacology,
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