Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a debilitating disease characterized by fast-progressing weakness, muscle atrophy and spasticity, and difficulty in breathing and speaking. This motor neuron disease tends to be fast-moving with most patients and may cause death within 2-5 years for most patients. However, long-living Lou Gehrig’s disease patients can survive a longer life span, the most well known sufferer being physicist Stephen Hawking.

There has been promising work done in cannabis therapy with the goal of reducing symptoms and prolonging survival in patients. The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine published a study indicating that marijuana treated symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The belief is that cannabis has “antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective” properties. It has been observed to help with analgesia, muscle relaxation, bronchodilation and saliva reduction. Furthermore, the lack of physical side effects makes it a safe treatment drug in contrast to other pharmaceutical products. Not only has a temporary pain relief benefit been reported, but evidence also suggests, “Cannabis might significantly slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, potentially extending life expectancy.”  

Another test concluded similar results, this one coming from the March 2004 issue of the journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis & Other Motor Neuron Disorders. The California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported that THC treatment before and after amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms showed a stalling of disease progression.

Now it is true that all of these studies have been on animal subjects, and this cannot suffice for human medicine because of the many internal differences among a variety of species. There has yet to be human test studies for patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease. However, with increasing support of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana at the state level, there may come a time soon when such human subject studies can be verified.