Survey: Dystonia Patients Report Benefits of Inhaling Cannabis

Tel Aviv, Israel: According to data published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, patients with dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions) report experiencing therapeutic benefits from smoking cannabis.

Dystonia is a hyperkinetic movement disorder often accompanied by pain. The effectiveness of existing medical treatments for dystonia, including anticholinergics, dopamine modulators, and other medications, can be variable, depending on individual patient factors and the specific dystonia subtype. Suboptimal symptom relief is seen in a subset of patients who do not achieve satisfactory results with these conventional treatment modalities. Therefore, there is a compelling need to investigate alternative therapeutic approaches that may offer potential benefits to people who have shown inadequate responses to traditional treatments.

Israeli researchers interviewed 23 patients with dystonia who were authorized to use medical cannabis products. (Cannabis is legal in certain circumstances in Israel, under the supervision of a doctor). Study participants had used cannabis for almost three years on average. Patients provided numerical ratings corresponding to their symptoms.

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Patients reported that inhaled cannabis was associated with a reduction in dystonia symptoms and an improvement in their overall quality of life.

Patients with generalized dystonia perceived greater benefits than those with more focal dystonia. Patients reported that smoking cannabis was much more effective than consuming the oil extracts. The most commonly reported side effects of cannabis are dry mouth, sedation, and dizziness.

“Our single-center, real-life observational study suggests that medical cannabis may benefit some patients with dystonia, particularly those with more extensive or generalized forms of the disease,” the researchers conclude. “THC-containing products may be a promising starting point for further research into the therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medications for dystonia in patients.

Twenty-three subjects were interviewed (11 women, mean age 52,7 years). The most common route of administration was smoking. After an average of 2,5 ± 2,9 years of use, people with generalized dystonia self-reported on a numerical rating scale an average reduction of 63% (range 0% to 100%) in dystonia symptoms , while those with more focal dystonia patterns reported a significantly lower treatment effect of 32%. Participants reported a positive impact on associated pain and quality of life, with an average score of 3,8 out of 5 and 3,6 out of 5, respectively. The most common side effects were dry mouth (65%), sedation (43%), dizziness (39%) and psychiatric disorders (26%). Three patients (13%) discontinued treatment.

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A subset of dystonic patients who use medical cannabis under clinical observation reported significant subjective improvement over an average of 30 months of use. Further prospective randomized controlled trials are needed to examine the effectiveness of cannabis in dystonia.

Separate data has shown that inhalation of cannabis improves pain and movement control in patients with Parkinson's disease .

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