Marijuana And Dystonia

A neurological movement disorder characterized by abnormal muscle tension and involuntary and painful muscle contractions, Dystonia, is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson’s disease and tremor that affects more than 300,000 people in North America.

Recent scientific literature provides references to a small number of case reports and preclinical studies investigating the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for symptoms of dystonia.

A 2002 case study published in the July issue of The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reported improved dystonia symptoms in a 42-year-old chronic pain patient after smoking marijuana. It was reported by the investigators that subjective pain score of the subject ell from 9 to zero (on a zero-to-10 visual analog scale) following cannabis inhalation and that no additional analgesic medication for the following 48 hours was required by the subject. “No other treatment intervention to date had resulted in such dramatic overall improvement in [the patient's] condition,” investigators concluded.

A second case study that reported “significant clinical improvement” following cannabis inhalation in a single 25-year-old patient with generalized dystonia because of Wilson’s disease was documented by an Argentinean research team in the August 2004 issue of the journal Movement Disorders.

A German research team at the Hannover Medical School reported successful treatment of musician’s dystonia in a 38-year-old professional pianist following administration of 5 mg of THC in a placebo-controlled single-dose trial in 2004. The investigators reported “clear improvement of motor control” in the subject’s affected hand, and noted, “[Two] hours after THC intake, the patient was able to play technically demanding literature, which had not been possible before treatment.” The subject had been unresponsive to standard medications and was no longer performing publicly prior to cannabinoid treatment. “The results provide evidence that … THC intake … significantly improves [symptoms of] … focal dystonia,” investigators concluded.

[1] Chatterjee et al. 2002. A dramatic response to inhaled cannabis in a woman with central thalamic pain and dystonia. The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 24: 4-6.
[2] Roca et al. 2004. Cannabis sativa and dystonia secondary to Wilson’s disease. Movement Disorders 20: 113-115.
[3] Jabusch et al. 2004. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol improves motor control in a patient with musician’s dystonia (PDF). Movement Disorders 19: 990-991.
[4] Fox et al. 2002. Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess the potential of cannabinoid receptor stimulation in the treatment of dystonia. Movement Disorders 17: 145-149.
[5] Richter et al. 2002. Effects of pharmacological manipulations of cannabinoid receptors on severe dystonia in a genetic model of paroxysmal dyskinesia. European Journal of Pharmacology 454: 145-151.
[6] Consroe et al. 1986. Open label evaluation of cannabidiol in dystonic movement disorders. International Journal of Neuroscience 30: 277-282.
[7] Richter et al. 1994. (+)-WIN 55212-2, a novel cannabinoid agonist, exerts antidystonic effects in mutant dystonic hamsters. European Journal of Pharmacology 264: 371-377.