The Medical Minute: How Does Cannabis Impact the Progression of ALS?

Based on some exciting new anecdotal evidence, the use of cannabis oil to treat ALS may actually prolong the life of the patient in addition to relieving many of the disease’s devastating day-to-day symptoms.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the baseball legend, is a debilitating disorder that affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States at any given time. You might remember ALS from that craze last summer when everyone decided to dump ice on their heads to raise awareness for the disease and to raise money for ALS research. Even Leaflyhopped on the bandwagon for a good cause, and overall, the ALS Foundation received over $100 million in donations by the time the summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge was over.

ALS is a degenerative neurological disorder that causes muscle weakness, wasting, and paralysis of the limbs, as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing, and breathing. It is often the deterioration of these crucial muscles that leads to respiratory failure; even with breathing aids or a tracheotomy, the risk of respiratory failure persists.

Being diagnosed with ALS is devastating, and for many it can feel like a death sentence. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years. However, more than half of all people with ALS live more than three years from diagnosis and there are definitely outliers, such as Stephen Hawking, one of the most iconic figures with ALS. Hawking was diagnosed in 1963, and now, more than 30 years later, he is among only 5% of those diagnosed with ALS who live more than 20 years after diagnosis.

Cannabis has long been known as a viable treatment option to relieve symptoms of ALS, which was outlined in this handy chart created by the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, but the most astonishing results have come from several ALS sufferers who have managed to slow the progression of the disease through regular, controlled doses of cannabis oil.

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