17 February 2021 – by Schalk van Zyl

A patient survey done in Germany sheds some light on medical use against Parkinson's Disease

A German survey looking at patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease found that around 8% of sufferers were using cannabis medically – and about 54% of those patients reported that the herb was helping them deal with their symptoms.

The Survey

Medical cannabis was legally approved in Germany in 2017 when approval was given for therapy-resistant symptoms in severely affected patients independent of diagnosis and without clinical evidence-based data,” explained lead investigator Professor Carsten Buhmann from the Department of Neurology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. “Parkinson’s Disease patients fulfilling these criteria are entitled to be prescribed medical cannabis, but there are few data about which type of cannabinoid and which route of administration might be promising for which Parkinson’s Disease patient and which symptoms. We also lack information about the extent to which the Parkinson’s Disease community is informed about medicinal cannabis and whether they have tried cannabis and, if so, with what result.”

Of the patients using cannabis medically more than 40% reported that it helped them to treat and manage their pain and muscle spasms, while over 20% reported a reduction in their tremors, muscle stiffness, anxiety, and other issues. The survey found that THC was slightly better at treating these symptoms than CBD, but THC tended to cause more unwanted side-effects such as intoxication and dry mouth.

Other interesting findings of this survey were that only around half of people questioned even knew that medical cannabis was legal in Germany and less than 10% of patients knew about the differences between different cannabinoids such as CBD and THC – pointing to a need for patient education in terms of their treatment options.

“These findings are interesting in that they confirm a widespread interest among patients in the use of cannabis as a potential treatment for people living with PD. It is important to emphasize that more research is needed before cannabis can be prescribed as a treatment, and that guidelines currently recommend against the use of cannabis, even as self-medication, because the efficacy is not well established, and because there are safety concerns (adverse effects include among others sedation and hallucinations). As such, the present paper mainly serves to emphasize the need for carefully controlled clinical trials to further establish both the efficacy and safety of cannabis treatment.” said Dr Bastiaan R. Bloem, the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.