According to a January 2020 survey of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), nearly half of those surveyed used cannabis for anxiety, pain, and sleep, but nearly a quarter of them stopped because of a lack of symptom improvement.
Researchers sent an anonymous survey of people with Parkinson’s disease to better understand this community’s attitudes and use of cannabis. The results were published in NPJ Parkinson Disease.
The researchers sent an anonymous survey of 7,607 people with Parkinson’s who had studied with the Parkinson’s Foundation. They received 1064 complete answers.
The respondents were on average 71.2 years old and had a mean PD of 7.4 years. Most of them (75.5%) had not used marijuana in the previous 6 months. The most common reasons for not taking part are a lack of evidence of effectiveness, fear of side effects and “others”. Respondents wrote for reasons such as the drug’s legality, lack of necessity, and simple disinterest.
Of those who used cannabis, 24.5% said they had used cannabis in the past 6 months, mainly for medical reasons (63.6%). Fewer than half of cannabis users said that they addressed “something” about their motor symptoms (41%). The most common non-motor symptoms were anxiety, pain, and difficulty sleeping. The most commonly addressed motor symptoms are stiffness and tremors.
Overall, 78% of cannabis users seeking non-motor symptom relief reported moderate or considerate improvement in anxiety. Of those seeking relief from motor symptoms, 64% reported relief from stiffness and 63% reported tremors.
One of the limitations is that respondents were interviewed using a convenience sample. Most were white, married, and educated, which does not reflect the entire PD population. Cannabis users may have been more inclined to respond to the survey and report positive results. The electronic survey format may also have excluded potential respondents who did not have email or were less familiar with the Internet.
“Most of these [cannabis] Users are realizing that cannabis is not a substitute for their current medications and are also seeing cannabis’ limited efficacy for symptom management, ”the researchers concluded.
“Many people with Parkinson’s rightly not consume cannabis due to the lack of evidence to support Parkinson’s use. Despite the lack of proven support, it is worrying that PD cannabis users do not have sufficient resources to educate them about the potential use of cannabis for PD. PD cannabis users identify several non-motor symptoms that may be responsive to cannabis and should be the target of future clinical experiments to determine whether this reported experience will be seen in a larger population. “
Feeney MP, Bega D., Kluger BM, et al. Weeding Through the Haze: A Survey of Cannabis Use Among People With Parkinson’s Disease in the United States. NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2021, March 3; 7 (1): 21. doi: 10.1038 / s41531-021-00165-y
This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor