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Parkinson’s disease and CBD: New studies may reveal positive effects

New studies from Brazil and Italy show that CBD may help some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

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Parkinson's Disease: A bottle of yellow CBD oil sits on a wooden surface near two green cannabis leaves

Parkinson’s disease affects 145,000 in the UK. While there are currently no treatments that can slow the progression of the disease, two new studies have investigated if CBD may help.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a long-term neurological condition. It is progressive and symptoms get worse over time. PD patients experience a loss of nerve cells in the part of their brains responsible for controlling movements.

This part of the brain is called the substantial nigra, it is a small group of cells in the centre of the brain. The nerve cells produce the chemical dopamine which helps transmit messages from the brain to other parts of the body through the central nervous system. When the cells are lost, people with PD lose dopamine and as a result, the messages to control their movements stop being transmitted properly.

It is estimated that 1 in 37 people living in the UK will be diagnosed with PD. In England alone, there are approximately 121,000 patients.

Parkinson’s Disease study 1

Researchers in Brazil examined if CBD could help to improve sleep satisfaction in patients diagnosed with REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD).

RBD is a chronic sleep condition that causes dream enactment and loss of REM atonia. Patients can often cause injury to themselves or their partners due to violent movements during their sleep. The movements can be caused by vivid nightmares. RBD patients are at high risk for developing a neurodegenerative disease as over 70 percent develop PD or dementia within 12 years of a diagnosis.

The placebo-controlled study, published in the journal Movement Disorders, revealed that CBD may help. The researchers recruited 33 patients with RBD and PD.  Patients were given either CBD or placebo capsules and monitored for 14 weeks. In the CBD group, patients were 300 mg which was associated with temporary improvements to the subject’s average sleep satisfaction. They noted that CBD dosing did not cause any significant reductions for patients’ RBD frequency.

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Another study

A new Italian study aimed to examine the effects of using CBD to treat PD associated neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory processes. The researchers investigated CBD for its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

The study reported that the CBD treated animals showed a reduction of nigrostriatal degeneration accompanied by a damping of the neuroinflammatory response and improvement of motor performance.

The overall results supported the potential therapeutic use of CBD in PD as a neuroprotective and symptomatic agent.

Read more: Pain, Anxiety and sleep: the most common reasons people use CBD

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Mental health

ADHD Awareness Month: “Cannabis helps to quieten down the distractions”

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READ MORE  CBD-enriched cannabis oil may reduce seizures in children with West syndrome
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Case Studies

ADHD Awareness Month: “There is more to ADHD than just annoying stereotypes”

To mark ADHD Awareness Month, we are focusing on patient’s stories of using cannabis to help their symptoms and manage their daily lives.

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ADHD: A pink pen highlighting the word ADHD in a text

For ADHD awareness month, Cannabis Health meets patients who use cannabis to treat the symptoms of the condition.

In the first of our series on ADHD, we meet Jakob Fullagar who was diagnosed with the condition as a teenager. He treats his condition with a combination of prescription medication and cannabis.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition. It can affect people’s behaviour in that they can seem restless, they may have trouble concentrating and seem impulsive. While a lot of people are diagnosed at a young age, there are adults being diagnosed with the disorder.

It is thought that ADHD presents in three different ways:

Inattentive: An individual may struggle to organise or complete tasks, pay attention to details, follow instructions or conversations. It also causes a person to be easily distracted or to forget parts of their daily routine.

Hyperactive: A person with hyperactivity may fidget or move or talk a lot. They can struggle with sitting still for a long period of time due to feeling restless. They also struggle with impulsivity and may interrupt frequently, speak at inappropriate times or fail to wait for their turn. They may be more accident-prone.

Combination: They present symptoms of both hyperactivity and inattentiveness.

ADHD: A person sitting at a table laughing

Jakob Fullagar

ADHD and Jakob

Jakob was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager. As with a lot of ADHD children, he was labelled the naughty child and was placed into therapy. ADHD symptoms are often mistaken for emotional or disciplinary problems. It is estimated that ADHD children hear an average of 20,000 more negative messages than neurotypical children by the time they are 10-years-old.

In Jakob’s case, teachers also failed to recognise signs of the condition in his behaviour.

“I was a troublemaker as I caused problems and couldn’t concentrate. It took about seven to eight years of therapy before a psychiatrist said it actually might be ADHD, which made a lot more sense.

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“I was straight away labelled as a naughty problem child and there was no point where a teacher turned around and said there may be something underlying there,” said Jakob.

As well as therapy, Jakob was placed on a low dose of Concerta. Concerta is a common ADHD medication containing methylphenidate similar to Ritalin. It is thought to improve focus in attentive presentations and also decrease risky or hyperactive behaviour.

He continued: “They just kept increasing it in three or four weekly increments. It tends to work fairly well. I can normally get about a year and a half before I feel I need an increase.”

Jakob had been consuming cannabis recreationally before he realised that it could be beneficial for his ADHD. It wasn’t until he received his diagnosis that he realised he had been subconsciously medicating with it.

“I started [using cannabis] before I actually knew I had ADHD, a friend recommended it,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I got diagnosed and talked about it with doctors that we realised I had been unknowingly self-medicating and self-managing. But it does work. I realised I could chill a little bit and I’m less all over the place.”

ADHD studies

The studies of cannabis on ADHD are few but promising. A small Israeli study from 2020 on medical cannabis patients suggested that CBN may help to reduce symptoms. The study involved 59 patients who were asked to record their ADHD, sleep, anxiety patterns using questionnaires. Those on a higher dose of CBN recorded less medication use while those on the lower doses recorded less anxiety. CBN is a controlled substance in the UK as it is created when THC breaks down and becomes oxygenated.

Jakob finds that medical cannabis has pros and cons when it comes to symptom management.

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“In terms of benefits, it’s absolutely taken me down a bit when it comes to energy levels. I am able to think things through after I’ve consumed. I’ll happily be able to sit and properly think out a process rather than just jumping straight in. I’ll take a step back.”

ADHD people can struggle with blurting things out, acting without thinking or failing to recognise risks as they act on impulse. This can have negative effects on their jobs, home lives and relationships. It can be difficult to take a step back to recognise the potential for danger, upset or difficulties.

He added: “I can process and choose an appropriate response. When it comes to being social, it’s much better to be able to navigate situations where I may upset someone by speaking before thinking.”

Diagnosis rise

While ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the condition. This can cause ADHD people to lose jobs, relationships and friendships. A survey from the US ADHD Awareness Coalition showed that more than half of those who participated said they had lost or changed a job because of their ADHD symptoms. A further 36 percent said they had four or more jobs in the past ten years with 6.5 percent saying they had more than 10.

Jakob is honest at work about his ADHD. Although he has just started working in a butchers, the smells, sights and textures don’t bother him. However, he admits that noise is a problem with distraction.

“I started working at a butchers about two months ago and it’s noticeable that I take longer to learn,” he said.

“At the minute, I’m constantly learning new things every day so I explained to everyone at work and said I have a learning difficulty so please be patient with me.

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“They have to show me things a few times and supervise me while I try it myself. It takes all of that while I crack a process. Then there are the sensory processing issues that come with it. There is constantly fans, fridges and machinery going on and it’s a running joke that I can’t hear anything unless people shout.”

Sensory overload can happen when a person has input from their five senses that they can process. Multiple conversations, flashing lights, or a loud party can all produce the symptoms. It is common in ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia and PTSD.

ADHD: A person holding a yellow phone taking a selfie

 

ADHD and cannabis stigma

While Jakob is open at work about his diagnosis, he does get frustrated that people feel it’s about just being a stereotype. He believes that cannabis use and ADHD still carries a stigma.

“I think especially around ADHD, there is a stigma. You tell someone you have the condition and they think it’s about hyperactivity, being energetic and funny. There is a lot more to ADHD than just annoying stereotypes,” he said.

“When it comes to cannabis, I think a lot of opinions have changed over time so I don’t tend to say that I use it a lot of the time but the majority of people know that I do. I think the main reason people don’t like cannabis these days is because of the negative connotations around it.”

Jakob added: “I wish people knew we are all trying our best with the resources and strategies we have at that moment but we have to try that little bit harder, unfortunately.

“It’s not all balancing, happiness and excitement, as it can be really stressful.”

Read more: I’m prescribed cannabis for ADHD but I can’t travel home with it

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CBD and insomnia : CBD company and research centre to launch new trial

The trial will not only test the effects of insomnia on patients but their stress and anxiety levels to with the aim of creating a new product

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Insomnia: A sleep mask, cannabis leaves, capsules and a cup of tea with a cannabis leaf sit on a purple duvet

Could cannabis help with insomnia? CBD and medical cannabis company BOD Australia have partnered with the Woodcock institute to launch new trial.

The insomnia research and agreement between BOD Australia and the Woodcock Institute will involve a phase IIb clinical trial. It is aimed at developing a new CBD product.

The study will investigate the effect of insomnia severity index scores on adults between 18 and 65 years old. The index asks patients to rate their difficulties falling, staying asleep or waking up too early.

The researchers will recruit around 200 participants struggling with insomnia and run for 12 weeks. They hope to compare both a placebo and a CBD product. During the trial, patients will take a placebo and their new CBD medication in 50mg and 100mg doses. The trial will also determine objective sleep indices as well as participant’s stress and anxiety levels.

The finished trial will allow the company to patent the product for sale over the counter. The company hope to make this available in Australia followed by the UK and US.

 

Australian research

The Woodcock Institute is Australia’s leading sleep and respiratory research organisation.

Head of sleep and circadian research at the Woolcock Institute, professor Ron Grunstein commented: ”Given the need for alternative treatments for insomnia, it is critical to investigate the effect of CBD on sleep through a high-quality study.”

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CEO Jo Patterson said: “We look forward to working with the Woolcock Institute and are confident that the results of the completed clinical trial will provide the required data to commercialise an over-the-counter Schedule 3 CBD product for Australian consumers.”

Insomnia studies

The Woodcock Institute is also working on another insomnia trial which has just finished recruiting participants. It aims to examine how cannabinoids can help people with insomnia and sleep disorders.

PhD student Anastasia Suraev is hoping to generate new data to inform further research, policy and clinical practice. In the video, she stated that 30 percent of the Australian population experience insomnia or poor quality sleep. Her research will test a ratio of CBD to THC thought to promote better sleep in oil form.

Her research will test the effects of this on sleep and daytime function in people with insomnia. The medication will consist of a controlled ratio of cannabinoids consumed as oil for slower absorption and longer-lasting effects. Participants will undergo brain imaging scans to discover if cannabinoids can help insomnia and are there any longer last effects the next day.

Read more: Can CBD help me sleep?

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Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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