Cerebral palsy remains an incurable disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild spastic movements to severe seizures and the inability to control and use limbs. While research for a cure is still being conducted, scientists continue to focus on forms of effective treatment to help control the disorder’s symptoms. Research on medical marijuana and cerebral palsy is still limited, but findings from previous studies suggest that it offers a host of benefits, including pain control, reduction of spastic movements, seizures reduction, and more.
Survey of Pain Treatment Study
In 2011, results of a study on pain treatment or people with cerebral palsy were published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A total of 83 adults with cerebral palsy participated in the study, which consisted of trying 23 different medications for pain, including medical marijuana. The legs, lower back, and hips, were reported as being the most common areas of pain. According to research,
The treatment that was rated as providing the most relief was marijuana; however, less than 5% of the sample reported ever using this drug for pain.”
Medical Marijuana and Spastic Quadriplegia
Spastic quadriplegia is the most serious form of cerebral palsy, affecting all of the limbs, the face, and the body’s trunk. The majority of children with spastic quadriplegia are unable to walk and their speech is usually profoundly affected. While their limbs can be extremely stiff, their necks may be floppy, making it difficult for them to hold their head up. Physical pain and cognitive issues are all common of those with spastic quadriplegia.
Although more data is needed, the few studies conducted on medical marijuana and spastic quadriplegia symptoms indicate that it offers numerous therapeutic benefits. For example, a study published by NIH in 2007 states that clinical experience and animal studies showed that the active constituents in marijuana helped to control partial seizures, which are usual in people with spastic quadriplegia.
Another study published in 2014 showed marijuana to be effective in reducing painful muscle spasms. Although the study focused on people who experienced muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, spasms are one of the most common symptoms of people with cerebral palsy.
Federal guidelines make it difficult for scientists to continue to conduct in-depth research. Many states, however, now allow medical marijuana as a treatment for spasms and pain, but Louisiana is the only state that allows it specifically to treat spastic quadriplegia without a doctor’s referral. Yet, other states allow it to treat spastic quadriplegia as long as a physician recommends it, including:
- Rhode Island
Cannabis Oil (CBD)
Cannabis oil, or CBD oil, named after one of the many compounds found in marijuana, has gained a lot of popularity recently, especially after a special that aired on CNN that involved a young girl who once suffered from close to 50 convulsive seizures every day. After exhausting every other possible option to help her, the girl’s parents turned to a high concentration of CBD oil, known as “Charlotte’s Web,” after the girl’s first name.
Charlotte titrated the CBD oil over several weeks while continuing on with a seizure treatment plan that was already in place. After weeks of using the oil, her seizure frequency went down to only two to three per day.
The CBD oil treatment became so successful that Charlotte was eventually weaned off of her other anti-seizure medications. She also began walking, talking, and even riding her bicycle, things she had difficulties with before. According to her father, Matt,
“I literally see Charlotte’s brain making connections that haven’t been made in years. My thought now is, why were we the ones that had to go out and find this cure? This natural cure? How come a doctor didn’t know about this? How come they didn’t make me aware of this?”
Charlotte’s mother Page added,
“I didn’t hear her laugh for six months. I didn’t hear her voice at all, just her crying. I can’t imagine that I would be watching her making these gains that she’s making, doing the things that she’s doing (without the medical marijuana). I don’t take it for granted. Every day is a blessing.”
More and more companies are offering CBD oil as a treatment for children with cerebral palsy who not only experience seizures, but also have muscle spasms and chronic pain.
It’s important to fully research companies, and possibly get your physician’s recommendation before making a decision. Keep in mind, however, that state law and even personal preferences may prohibit your child’s doctor from giving you a recommendation.
The Myth of “Getting High” and Medical Marijuana
One of the rightful concerns of parents who are considering medical marijuana treatment for their children is the “getting high” factor of using marijuana. According to David Casarett, MD, author of Stoned: A Doctor’s Case For Medical Marijuana, it’s the THC compound in marijuana that’s responsible for producing the high feeling.
The majority of medical marijuana and cannabis oil products have such a low concentration of THC that there is literally no feeling of “being stoned.” It’s the CBD ingredient in marijuana that helps treat seizures and spasms. Medical marijuana and CBD oil promote a high concentration of CBD.
“It’s THC that gets you high. If you feel euphoric, or if you’re unfortunate enough to have bad side effects (like hallucinations), those are due to THC. So, marijuana probably will get you high as long as it’s got some THC in it. But, CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of those brain effects. In fact, there have been studies using 300, 400, or 600 milligrams of CBD — which is a really whopping dose — with no psychological effects whatsoever.”
He also added,
“So if you’re using marijuana or marijuana products that are low in THC, then no, you won’t get high. That includes, most notably, the concentrated oils that are used [to treat] pediatric seizures.”
Speech Disorders and Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana may also be beneficial to those with cerebral palsy who have speech disorders and impediments, such as stuttering. Speech repetition and stuttering are common symptoms of cerebral palsy, and although these issues aren’t life-threatening, they can be extremely debilitating to people who want to communicate more effectively.
Jacqueline Patterson has lived with cerebral palsy and a severe stuttering issue since she was a little girl. In 2007, she created a documentary entitled In Pot We Trust, where she detailed how marijuana not only helped her reduce her speech issues significantly, but also helped her severe muscle pain and stiffness.
Unfortunately, Patterson used marijuana in Missouri, a state that doesn’t allow its use for any purposes at all, including medical issues. Consequently, her four children were taken away from her, but she took her case to Missouri representatives. While speaking to legislators, she said,
For the first time, my muscles were not tense. And words slid from my mouth, from gggghhh — from me at a fluid pace instead of sssss-stuck on my tongue like a g-ghh — like a train wreck.”
Patterson didn’t have much success in convincing the chairmen that day that marijuana for medical purposes was literally saving her health and her family, so she eventually moved to California, along with her four children, where she advocates the use of marijuana for people with cerebral palsy and other disorders.
Currently, there’s no clinical research published on medical marijuana and stuttering, but numerous physicians across several states advocate its use for a helpful treatment option for speech problems.