September 25th marks the International Ataxia Awareness Day, and Spain honours this occasion by recognising the more than 13,000 patients in the country living with some kind of ataxia. This term encompasses more than 300 kinds of diseases affecting the nervous system, but they all share one thing in common: an impairment in the ability to coordinate movement as a consequence of some damage to the cerebellum. Apart from affecting motion, of course, this condition can also cause blurry vision, slurred speech, and trembling. Some episodes of ataxia are triggered by a vitamin deficiency, drug use, or an autoimmune condition.
One of the goals of ataxia treatment is identifying and managing the cause of the disease, such as hypothyroidism, infections, or vitamin deficiencies. Patients with gluten ataxia may improve by sticking to a gluten-free diet. If no adequate treatment is found, patients may seek other alternatives such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy.
Therapeutic Applications of Cannabis
The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in modulating motor function within the basal ganglia and cerebellum, two parts of the central nervous system that are tightly connected with controlling motion. According to some scientific studies, hereditary ataxias produce a higher number of CB1 and CB2 receptors in cells in the nervous system, indicating a neuroprotective mechanism.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology analysed CB1 and CB2 receptor levels in the cerebellum of patients with spinocerebellar ataxia and found higher levels of these receptors as compared with control subjects. These researchers have also analysed the loss of endocannabinoids in the cerebellum of people with ataxia, observing a higher number of MAGL and FAHH degradative enzymes than in the control group. Scientists concluded that the modulation of the endocannabinoid system could play a central role in ataxia treatments.
Dosage and Administration Forms
Patients are advised to use varieties containing equal amounts of THC and CBD. If there is little or no response to treatment, patients can resort to varieties with a higher amount of THC. Sublingual oil has proven to be useful as a basic treatment for this disease because of its more lasting effect and low psychoactive properties. It is recommended to start with low doses and then gradually increasing it following a doctor’s advice. Vaping flower is an ideal choice to produce a more powerful effect in patients who are about to engage in any activity that offers more benefits when relaxed such as a kinesiology session or occupational therapy. If a patient is also using any other kind of medication, it is recommended to leave a 2-hour window before or after administering cannabis extracts.