Effect Of Medical Cannabis On Restless Legs Syndrome
Effect Of Medical Cannabis On Restless Legs Syndrome
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Affecting as many as one in ten people living in the United States, restless legs syndrome is a medical condition characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move one’s legs. According to research, cannabis use has been evidenced as an effective means for relieving the symptoms and can also improve the quality of the patient’s sleep.
OVERVIEW OF RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME
Restless legs syndrome is characterized primarily by an irresistible and uncomfortable urge to move one’s legs. This syndrome is classified as a sensorimotor disorder involving the person’s nervous system. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless legs syndrome (RLS) will most often worsen when the individual is sitting or lying down. Consequentially, the syndrome is most commonly associated with sleep difficulties, daytime fatigue, exhaustion, and lower degrees of productivity.
The symptoms of RLS can vary in severity on a daily basis and sensations will range from irritating and uncomfortable to painful. A moderately-severe case of RLS will involve symptoms occurring once to twice per week. If the symptoms appear more than twice per week, this can be considered a severe case of restless legs syndrome.
The primary cause of restless legs syndrome remains unclear, but medical professionals believe that the disorder has a genetic component. Research has indicated that specific gene variants are associated with the condition, and this is found in families where the onset of RLS occurs before the age of 40 years. Evidence has also suggested that RLS holds a relation to a dysfunction in the individual’s basal ganglia – a part of the brain that utilizes dopamine as a means of controlling movement. Low iron levels have also been associated with the onset of RLS.
Treatment for restless legs syndrome has been directed at relieving the symptoms of RLS. By moving the affected legs regularly, it is possible to provide the patient with relief; however, this is an only temporary relief. Hot baths, leg massages, and iron supplements are also recommended as forms of RLS treatment.
Further medication, such as dopaminergic pills and anti-seizure medication, are often prescribed as a means of managing RLS symptoms. While these pharmaceuticals can be effective, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes caution its use because long-term use can result in worsening of the symptoms. Opioids may be prescribed to treat individuals with more severe cases of RLS.
THE EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON RLS
Research regarding the effects of cannabis use on cases of restless legs syndrome is significantly lacking, but the limited research findings that have been conducted are beneficial. According to a 2017 case study, cannabis was found to be an effective treatment when relieving RLS symptoms in six patients with restless legs syndrome. Five of the six patients reported a full remission of all symptoms after using marijuana, and one patient reported the relief from symptoms after consuming CBD (cannabidiol). Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive element found in all types of cannabis and does not contribute to the hallucinogenic effects of marijuana. All six of the patients reported noted improvement in their sleep patterns after undergoing this treatment.
Further studies into the treatment of restless legs syndrome have found that dopamine agonist drugs are useful in managing moderate-to-severe cases of RLS. The evidence is yet to be discovered regarding the influence of cannabis on dopamine release, but researchers are aware of the interaction between cannabis and the endocannabinoid system’s receptions – CB1 and CB2. This communication is reported to efficiently modulate the release of dopamine in the brain. This dopamine regulatory effect of cannabis has shown to be effective when treating RLS and other types of movement conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.
Also, both of the major cannabinoids evident in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD – have demonstrated high efficacy in several scientific studies to show the management of pain and sleep quality improvement. The properties that contribute to pain management and sleep promotion are yet to be studied in patients experiencing RLS but have already been reported as effective in individuals with multiple medical conditions.
STATES THAT HAVE APPROVED THE USE OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR RLS
Despite the fact that no US states have expressly approved the use of medical marijuana as a treatment of RLS, some states will consider other conditions and may help this treatment for RLS or sleep conditions. California State reports that medical marijuana can be used in any debilitating disease where it may be recommended by the medical professional. Medical marijuana is approved in the state of Connecticut for medical conditions as approved by the Department of Consumer Protection. The state of Washington approves medical marijuana for debilitating and terminal conditions as is recommended by a licensed medical professional in DC.
Cannabis for restless legs syndrome: a report of six patients.
- Buchfuhrer, M.J. (2012, October). Strategies for the treatment of restless legs syndrome.Neurotherapeutics, 9(4), 776-790. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480566/.
- Lotan, I., Treves, T.A., Roditi, Y., and Djaldetti, R. (2014, March-April). Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease: an open-label observational study. Clinical Neuropharmacology, 37(2), 41-4. Retrieved fromhttp://journals.lww.com/clinicalneuropharm/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2014&issue=03000&article=00001&type=abstract.
- Megelin, T., and Ghorayeb, I. (2017, August). Cannabis for restless legs syndrome: a report of six patients. Sleep Medicine, 36, 182-83. Retrieved from http://www.sleep-journal.com/article/S1389-9457(17)30222-8/fulltext.
- Restless legs syndrome. (2014, December 10). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/restless-legs-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20031101.
- Ware, M.A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., Robinson, A., Ducruet, T., Huynh, T., Gamsa, A., Bennett, G.J., and Collet, J.P. (2010). Smoked cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 182(14), E694–E701. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950205/
- Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. (2017, May). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Restless-Legs-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet.