Huntington’s disease, terminal illness and spasticity were added to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions last week. The board voted no on petitions for adding autism spectrum disorder, restless leg syndrome, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and spasms to the list. Autism spectrum disorder is currently under review by the Ohio legislature under House Bill 60.
Earlier this year, the board determined that petitions to add arthritis, chronic migraines and complex regional pain syndrome already qualify, as they fall into the existing qualifying category of chronic or intractable pain.
The three diseases added to the state’s qualifying conditions in June 2021 are:
Caused by a hereditary genetic defect, Huntington’s disease is a progressive, terminal disease which affects long-term physical and cognitive functioning. No cure exists, and patients with Huntington’s disease continue to gradually lose functioning as the disease progresses.
Because there’s no cure, medical treatment for Huntington’s disease focuses on allowing the patient to live as normal a life as possible. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medications are commonly prescribed for the condition, but can often cause unwanted side effects such as nausea, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems. In some cases, these medications can lead to worsening physical symptoms. Many also cause or contribute to mental health symptoms too, such as depression and other psychiatric conditions.
Researchers have reason to believe Huntington’s disease may be strongly connected to the body’s endocannabinoid system. Patients with Huntington’s disease often have a loss of appetite and lose weight as the disease progresses. Medical marijuana may offer patients suffering from Huntington’s disease some relief by minimizing nausea, and stimulating appetite.
Spasticity refers to abnormal muscle tightness due to prolonged contraction. Spasticity is associated with damage to the brain, spinal cord or motor nerves, and is most commonly seen in individuals with neurological conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy (CP) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Spasticity may be as mild as the feeling of tightness of muscles or may be so severe as to produce painful, uncontrollable spasms of extremities, usually of the legs. Spasticity may also produce feelings of pain or tightness in and around the joints and lower back.
Research suggests that medical marijuana can calm muscle spasticity. One such cannabis therapy that has been recently submitted to be approved by the FDA is a complex botanical medication formulated from extracts of the cannabis plant. Marketed under the brand name Sativex, the product would be delivered to patients as an oral cannabis-derived spray. Cannabis can be taken several times a day on an as-needed and as-tolerated basis, where currently available antispasticity agents are generally given on a set daily schedule. This gives patients an opportunity to adjust their dosing schedule based on their needs.
“Published reports suggest that a large number of persons with MS have used or currently use cannabis to help relieve symptoms related to spasticity,” observed Francois Bethoux, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research.
Patients suddenly faced with a terminal illness diagnosis can experience a broad range of physical and emotional symptoms. Families of patients with terminal illnesses have to quickly cope with the devastating news while preparing for the last days of their loved one’s life.
Medical cannabis can sometimes be recommended in addition to conventional drugs intended to make terminally ill patients more comfortable. Cannabis can be an effective way to comfort a terminal patient when they decide they no longer wish to take prescription medications. Research on medical cannabis for terminal illness has shown effectiveness in treating specific symptoms often associated with end-of-life difficulties.
Perhaps more importantly than physical comforting effects, medical marijuana used in the hospice care setting may ease spiritual and existential suffering. This can be an important benefit both for patients faced with the despair of a terminal illness, as well as their caregivers. The mild euphoria and sense of well-being that cannabis can bring to a terminal patient can ease their mind, body and spirit as they come to terms with their final days.
If you believe you may qualify for a medical marijuana card due to one of the above-mentioned conditions, make an appointment to be evaluated by a Duber Medical doctor today.
Author: Gabrielle Dion Visca
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She’s held positions with The Journal of Pediatrics, Livestrong, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and Patient Pop. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical, and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.