As a foundation, Huntington's disease represents a progressive, fatal genetic disease. It affects multiple aspects of a person's being including their physical and cognitive status. Very simplistically, it damages the nerves in the brain, prompting the nerve integrity to break down over time, causing significant physical and cognitive problems. As a genetic-based disease, it stems from a parent having a defective gene with the Huntington's marker. Approximately 200,000 individuals are at risk for this disease with 30,000 showing actual symptoms. Movement symptoms include irregular eye movements, unsteady gait, and jerking motions, while cognitive symptoms may include a reduction in processing speed, loss of impulse control, and inability to maintain focus or prioritize tasks. While the disease is most often found in individuals older than 18, juvenile Huntington's has also been identified. Considering it is a progressive disorder, patients generally lose functioning furthermore leading to a loss of independence. Several medications are used to treat Huntington's, including anti-psychotic drugs alongside drugs that suppress movements. Considering there is no known cure for Huntington's disease, medical treatment most often focuses on prompting patients to live a normal life, specifically as much as possible. Several of the drugs used for Huntington's have significant side effects, such as a high risk of dependency and addiction, nausea, or insomnia. In contrast, medical marijuana has been shown to not induce many of these side effects and additionally reduce tension and anxiety. Lastly, some patients have a loss of appetite and medical marijuana has shown to improve appetite. Potentially, THC may minimize jerking movements, and CBD may have a neuroprotective effect on brain progression. Research on cannabis and Huntington's disease is very limited. Past research has primarily used animal models such as hamsters in which generalization may be limited to humans. While prescriptive drugs have shown to have severe side effects, side effects with medical marijuana must not be discounted, such as paranoia, drowsiness, and unpredictability regarding appetite. Potentially, medical cannabis may improve the quality of life for individuals with Huntington's disease. This section will address the ongoing research on this topic.
Akinyemi, E., Randhawa, G., Longoria, V., & Zeine, R. (2020). Medical marijuana effects in movement disorders, focus on Huntington disease; A literature review. Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, 23, 389-395. https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/jpps/index.php/JPPS/article/download/30967/21585
Laprairie, R. B., Bagher, A. M., Rourke, J. L., Zrein, A., Cairns, E. A., Kelly, M. E. M., Sinal, C. J., Kulkarni, P. M., Thakur, G. A., & Denovan-Wright, E. M. (2019). Positive allosteric modulation of the type 1 cannabinoid receptor reduces the signs and symptoms of Huntington’s disease in the R6/2 mouse model. Neuropharmacology, 151, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2019.03.033
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