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How Does Cannabis Impact the Progression of ALS?

June 19, 2015

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 Leafly hopped 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.

Bob Strider began experiencing the symptoms of ALS in 1998, specifically the loss of function in his right arm and problems swallowing. An avid cannabis enthusiast, he had used cannabis heavily for decades, which he believes has kept the progression of his disease slow but steady. In 2012, Strider began manufacturing his own cannabis oils, dosing himself with approximately a gram a day for 60 days. Within 10 days of his regimen, he regained control of his right arm and was able to stop using opiates to manage his pain.

Another remarkable case comes from Cathy Jordan, who was diagnosed with ALS in 1986 and given less than five years to live. In the winter of 1989, Jordan spent the holiday in Florida, preparing for the end of her life, when she made a crucial discovery. While walking on the beach one night, she smoked a joint of Myakka Gold and felt her symptoms cease, essentially experiencing the neuroprotective effects of cannabis before they’d been proven.

Jordan never set out to be a cannabis activist, preferring instead to quietly continue treating her disease. She tried to tell her neurologist in 1989 that cannabis had helped her, and he tried to convince her husband to have her committed to a mental facility. In 1994, Jordan met a new doctor who was astonished by her progress. When he asked what she’d been doing to stay alive, she informed him, and he advised her, “Smoke all the cannabis you can and never tell a soul, because they will never believe you.”

Unfortunately, Donnie Clark, the grower of Myakka Gold (named for the Myakka region of Florida), was arrested and sent to prison for 12 years until his sentence was commuted by former President Clinton. The strain itself, which Jordan credits with stopping the progression of her ALS, has since been eradicated by the DEA.

Cathy Jordan, however, ended up becoming the inspiration for Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative in Florida that was edged out last November. Ironically, on February 25, 2013, the same day that the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Amendment was announced, Jordan’s home was raided and 23 plants were seized by local authorities, although charges were dropped when it became evident that she was using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Now, finally, years later, there has been more and more conclusive research indicating that these patients’ self-medicating regimen was beneficial, after all. Preclinical data shows that cannabis has powerful anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects, and with regular applications, it may actually slow the progress of the disease and prolong the lives of the individuals affected by ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a qualifying condition for medical marijuana programs in Delaware, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. However, with more promising research emerging, other states’ medical marijuana programs need to follow suit and allow suffering patients the right to try and treat this horrible disease with cannabis if it can provide them with even a little bit of relief.

  • Connie Tucker Letner

    I was diagnosed with ALS in January of this year. I can walk only with a walker and not for long. I must use a wheelchair if a normal walk is involved. When I wake up my body, especially legs, hurt bad! I would like to try medical marijuana but I live in Missouri. Is there any help for me?

    • pat

      Yes ask a relative to buy you cannabis oil forget the law,cannabis is sold in every place on Earth,go slow dont take too much start slow so your body gets used to it if you cant get oil smoke it again start with little,your life is more important than some law!

      • Connie Tucker Letner

        Thank you

        • Captain Jim

          Give it a shot, whatever you have to do. Maybe take a prolonged vacation in Colorado or California etc? I know it’s totally unfair you should be put in that situation, but as the previous responder was mentioning, your life is more valuable than backwards laws that harm sick people.

          Someone close to me has been diagnosed with a similar type of neurological condition as well, and is just going through the steps to try cannabis oil. Fortunately we live in Canada.

          All the best!

        • Captain Jim

          Give it a shot, whatever you have to do. Maybe take a prolonged vacation in Colorado or California etc? I know it’s totally unfair you should be put in that situation, but as the previous responder was mentioning, your life is more valuable than backwards laws that harm sick people.

          Someone close to me has been diagnosed with a similar type of neurological condition as well, and is just going through the steps to try cannabis oil. Fortunately we live in Canada.

          Watch the documentary “The Scientist” on Raphael Mechoulam’s life’s work on youtube if you want to learn some astonishing things about the science behind cannabis’ healing effects. They do briefly mention ALS….

          All the best!!

        • dubyrunning

          I will second the comment that you might try non-psychoactive CBD oil derived from hemp. Hemp is simply cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, but products made from it can be sold online. I’m not sure if CBD-only treatment would be as effective as the full spectrum including THC – it may not be, because THC and CBD’s therapeutic effects often complement one another and are more effective together than alone. However, if you can’t leave your home state to go where medical cannabis is legal (which might be a good idea if it can potentially add years to your life and ease your symptoms), ordering CBD hemp oil online will definitely be better than nothing. Best of luck to you!

    • Nicole Heisler

      CONNIE, YOU CAN ORDER CBD ONLINE WHEN IT IS DERIVED FROM THE HEMP PLANT IT IS LEGAL IN ALL 50 STATES. GIVE IT A TRY. START WITH 5MG BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER. YOU MAY NEED CANNABIS OIL BUT CBD OIL MAY ALSO HELP. SENDING PRAYERS TO YOU.

    • Saverio Rino Paccione

      I was diagnosed with ALS 1991i can tell weed help me year now 2017 and still going strong ty weed

    • Saverio Rino Paccione

      I was diagnosed with ALS 1991i can tell weed help me year now 2017 and still going strong ty weed saverio paccione

    • Saverio Rino Paccione

      i use an
      wheelchair

    • Scarlette R Letters

      Order CBD online. It will help

  • Karin

    Can anyone tell me what the dosage of CBD oil and THC 1:1 ratio (12.5% THC and 12.5 % CBD) daily. I use this but only at night and a very small amount. My diagnosis is PLS but I suspect it could turn out as ALS from everything I am reading..

    • Greg Kenoyer

      The information you posted is inadequate to determine your dosage. You need to determine the total milligrams you take. This can be calculated from the total THC and/or CBD in the bottle and the total volume in the bottle.

      fwiw, I was Dx with ALS in 2012 and I take 50mg each of THC and CBD orally daily.

  • Saverio Rino Paccione

    01/23/68 on the 23 of this month i will be 50 years 21 years with a.l.s

    • Scarlette R Letters

      Congratulations !!! That is wonderful

  • Bill Arnett

    I may have ALS. It’s some really scary shit , I can’t talk , hardly swallowing , I’m starting to lose the use of my left arm and ankle . every where I look on internet someone claims to been cured but there’s never any documention or proof. personally myself I don’t want to die of such a horrible death. PLEASE don’t get me wrong I believe there’s nothing wrong with smoking don’t you think the doctor’s would confirm this surly they wouldn’t just let you die there’s no money im letting you die. If you’re going to say you have ALS for 18 plus years with no progression do you have any proof? Doctor’s anything? Right now I could lose my job my house every thing I’ve worked for. But at the same time if this keeps progressing I’ll be out of work .either way I’m probably fucked.

    • Samantha

      There are HUGE conflicts of interest of alternative medicine and BigPharma…doctors are not involved in pharmaceutical research and often don’t continue their education beyond their schooling years. Yes, cannabis compounds could greatly help you – please see a medicinal marijuana physician/doctor to get your medical marijuana card and begin working with a caregiver to find what strains will be beneficial for you. Also, studies are often biased and funded directly and indirectly by BigPharma so even groundbreaking studies aren’t always included in these journals if they threaten the overall BigPharma industry…For example oregano oil is an amazing natural antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic, etc. yet you never hear about it….and it doesn’t kill the good bacteria like pharmaceutical antibiotics do. Please! Do not believe everything you see with BigPharma…they are the largest industry, corrupt, and have their fingers in our government as well. They also want to patent a synthetic CBD and already have made a synthetic THC however it is not working the same as the real, organic, provided by God, marijuana that you have every right to have access to.

  • Ginger Pack

    I have had AL since 2015. Although I didn’t get diagnosed until 2016.. I have lot my ability to speak. and eating is hard because my tongue doesn’t work anymore . I am very limited on what i can eat. I still have the use of the rest of my body . My Neurologist won’t prescribe Radivca the newest drug for ALS. I live in North Carolina and the Republicans who run my state won’t allow any cannabis oil or any marijuana.

  • Maria Mota Mimbrero

    Does anyone know what is the cannabis strain that Cathy Jordan smokes? Or the % thc and cbd? How many grams a day? Why does she smoke instead of taking cannabis oil?

  • Dave Tremain

    I’m a US ARMY combat veteran I was diagnosed with ALS in February of 2016, I find great relief from my symptoms with daily use of marijuana. I live in CA a legal state so I don’t have any problems with getting it. the cost is another story I’m on a budget and am looking for great rates on dank buds lots of them.