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Can cannabis help in developing a treatment plan for Huntington’s disease?

Around 12 in 100,000 people are affected by Huntington’s disease. It is a degenerative disease for which there is no known cure. There is current research which aims to slow down or ‘switch off’ the faulty gene responsible for causing Huntington’s disease. There is also promising research into how chemicals contained within cannabis can be used to create a medicine for treatment of Huntington’s disease. The chemical contained within raw/live cannabis which is being looked at in potential treatment for Huntington’s disease is called ‘THCA’.

What is THCA?

THCA is a cannabinoid which is found in cannabis. It is the chemical precursor to THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid contained in cannabis. The process for converting THCA into THC is known as ‘decarboxylation’, which is what happens when cannabis is burned. The process of decarboxylation is what causes cannabis to produce psychoactive effects, and as such, THCA will not produce such effects. This makes it much more suitable for medicine, as psychoactivity is considered a major and undesirable side effect. THCA works by affecting the PPARγ receptor found within the brain. This receptor is known to regulate parts of the body in a specific physiological way. The Canadian team has said THCA can be used; “as a lead structure for the development of novel drugs for the management of (Huntington’s) and, possibly, other neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases.”

How does THCA compare to other treatments?

The current treatments available to those suffering from Huntington’s disease are severely limited. Most drugs are aimed towards treating the symptoms produced by Huntington’s disease. These symptoms include depression, irritability, trouble with thought problems, slowing or stiffness, fidgeting and uncontrollable movements, and changes in coordination which affect balance and can make the sufferer more clumsy. These symptoms make Huntington’s disease very difficult to deal with in day-to-day life. Those with jobs which require precise movements will have their ability to perform their job severely impaired as Huntington’s disease gets worse. Antidepressants are often prescribed to those suffering form Huntington’s disease, and that is one area in which medical marijuana can certainly be of use in the right cases. Involuntary movement is one of the major symptoms of Huntington’s disease, and medicines are usually prescribed to help lessen the effects. Such medicines include olanzapine, sulpiride, risperidone, and quetiapine, which are antipsychotics. One San Diego-based pharmaceutical company looking at developing medicines to help treat the symptoms of Huntington’s disease is currently conducting clinical trials aimed at helping with pain, cognitive dysfunction, brain fog, and memory loss. The waiting list is currently two years long, as many sufferers of Huntington’s disease are looking for any and all potential treatment solutions. Those suffering for 10 or 20 years with the disease will try anything, as they well know, the disease is always fatal eventually. This need for a new medicine is spurring on the development of new treatments, and more research will be conducted because of this.


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