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SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA’S THERAPEUTIC CANNABIS PHARMACY

What Conditions Are Treatable With Medical Marijuana in Louisiana?

Who is legally eligible to purchase medical Cannabis in Louisiana?
Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that currently has no known cause or a particularly effective single treatment. In Louisiana, not all autism patients yet qualify for Cannabis medicines, but it’s restricted to those diagnosed with: (1) repetitive or self-stimulatory behavior of such severity that the physical health of the person with autism is jeopardized, (2) avoidance of others or inability to communicate of such severity that the physical health of the person with autism is jeopardized, (3) self-injuring behavior, or (4) physically aggressive or destructive behavior.
For the autism patients who do enjoy some measure of relief from treatment with Cannabis medicines, it is postulated that some formulations of the medicine may work as a mild sedative and tranquilizing agent. There is speculation that the biological endocannabinoid (ECS) system of autistic patients may be different from that found in others and if an intact and functioning system is lacking in the ASD population, then supplying deficient cannabinoids to the deficient or dysfunctioning ECS may yield beneficial results.

Cachexia/Wasting Syndrome
Cachexia/wasting is a complex metabolic syndrome that is usually caused by some underlying illness such as cancer and/or cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, chronic diarrhea, congestive heart failure, coeliac disease and a host of other conditions. If a person has involuntarily lost 10% or more of their weight, the medical community classifies the condition as “wasting syndrome.”

Improved urge to eat is the second most commonly reported feeling experienced by those who have ingested Cannabis. In the lingo of the Cannabis counter-culture, people have long dubbed this “the munchies.” Several studies have shown that subjects given THC had increased caloric intake. Although it doesn’t work for all patients, the goal of Cannabis clinicians treating people suffering from cachexia is to stimulate hunger, control nausea and to restore feelings of interest in food again. Cannabis also presents fewer negative side effects than steroids, human growth hormones and other drugs currently given for cachexia.

Cancer
It’s normal to have a healthy skepticism about classifying Cannabis as a cancer treatment. Yet Cannabis has, for example, long been believed to stimulate appetite. We know that appetite loss can accompany a loss in energy and hasten a downward spiral in the cancer patient’s status. In 2017, the National Academies of Science found significant evidence that Cannabis treats other symptoms like chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, helping treat depression and improving sleep too.

Beyond treating symptoms, though, Cannabis can also help block the unregulated growth of cancer cells. There is evidence to suggest that cannabinoids may play a role in the cancer regulation processes. CBD and THC have demonstrated immunological capacity in making it harder for certain cancer cells to grow. Cannabis works on cancer in three main ways: (1) It can cause cancer cell death, (2) It can block blood vessel development to tumors, and 3) It improves the immune system.

Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowl disease (IBD). When a person has Crohn’s disease, the inner lining of the colon becomes inflamed. There is currently no cure for this disease and most treatments are focused on relieving symptoms. By 1900, physicians in both the United States were prescribing Cannabis medicines for various gastrointestinal disorders. The high prevalence of cannabinoid receptors in the intestinal tract also means that cannabidiol or CBD is likely turning down the inflammatory processes that cause Crohn’s disease. This reduces inflammation and causes muscle relaxation, providing relief from symptoms such as cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and spasms.

In Israel, where some of the top Cannabis research occurs, a small study of Crohn’s patients found that Cannabis treatment resulted in symptom remission in more than half of the participants. Cannabinoids modulate gut pain and visceral sensation in a variety of experimental models, which supports patient reports of Cannabis medicines providing distraction and relief from Crohn’s-related pain.

Epilepsy or Seizure Disorders
Epilepsy is a broad medical term used to describe a group of conditions or a broad range of clinical syndromes characterized by recurrent seizures over time. A seizure results when there are changes in the normal functioning of the brain’s electrical activity so that excitation predominates over inhibition. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, seizures affect nearly 3 million Americans and in Louisiana, the number likely approximates 40,000. More than half of epilepsy cases have no clear cause or brain malfunction. Currently, no cure exists for either seizures or epilepsy.

Over 30% of patients diagnosed with some form of epilepsy are unable to gain control of their seizures with conventional treatments. Success rates, however, in treating epilepsy with Cannabis and demonstrated in multiple studies have been significant enough that one pharmaceutical company developed a drug that recently became the first FDA approved Cannabis extracted medicine. Many scientists believe that the principal method of action demonstrated by Cannabis is in activating cannabinoid receptors and activating ion channels to help decrease seizures.

Glaucoma
When Louisiana’s first medicinal Cannabis law was passed back in 1978, glaucoma was included. Still, no Louisiana patient received any Cannabis-based medicine for this degenerative disorder until 2019. The original bill sponsor, Senator Tony Guarisco, suffers from glaucoma himself. From 1970 to present, studies have shown the medicine doesn’t just treat the intraocular pressure (IOP) that can permanently damage eyes, but it also helps manage symptoms like the accompanying nausea and vomiting, it helps kill the pain (analgesia) and it reduces associated inflammation.

In 2003, the American Academy of Ophthalmology published a position statement reading, “Some derivatives of marijuana did result in lowering of IOP when administered orally, intravenously or by smoking…” Over 43,000 Louisianans suffer from glaucoma and while Cannabis may temporarily relieve IOP in some patients, it does not cure the disease. For patients who suffer from negative side effects stemming from standard therapies, the right Cannabis medicine may be a good option for managing IOP and other symptoms.

Note: Cannabis can decrease blood supply to the optic nerve and thus should be carefully considered and monitored by one’s eye care professional.

HIV/AIDS
HIV is a virus that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition wherein progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive. In 1986, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized the rescheduling of synthetic THC in the form of dronabinol from Schedule I (having no medical value) to Schedule II and since 1992, dronabinol has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective for treatment of HIV induced anorexia.

Studies on Cannabis for AIDS patients have confirmed a beneficial effect on food intake and body weight and decreased nausea. The stimulation of appetite from one dose can last 24 hrs. or longer. The modern medical marijuana movement began in the early 1980s when it was noted that Cannabis use by patients suffering from AIDS-related nausea improved their wellbeing. To date, there is no credible evidence of cross-reactivity or drug interactions between Cannabis medicines, retroviral medicines and other medications commonly used to treat HIV infection.

Intractable Pain
Chronic pain may be defined as any pain that persists for more than 12 weeks. Under the Louisiana medical Cannabis statute, it is “a pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated with the consent of the patient and which, in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts.”

One of the oldest known uses for therapeutic Cannabis was as an analgesic (drug relieving pain). The National Center for Health Statistics reports that chronic pain affects 80 – 100 million adults and since the 1990s, has become an American epidemic. Cannabis medicines are safer and work well alone or together with opioids or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. The Journal of the American Medical Association observed that medical Cannabis states had a 24.8% less annual opioid overdose deaths than states without them.

Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS), is a debilitating and sometimes fatal disorder of the central nervous system. Perhaps 4,000 Louisianans suffer from the disease. Although the cause of MS is unknown, most scientists believe that a combination of environmental and genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing the autoimmune inflammatory disease. There is currently no cure.

Cannabis has been used as an effective treatment for MS patients for decades. MS patients have generally reported that Cannabis acts as a potent and fast-acting muscle relaxant, a pain reliever, it lessens spasticity, helps with depression, reduces fatigue and incontinence, but it also serves as a neuroprotectant and can boost immune system function. It is safe treatment in its own right, but also as an adjunct to one’s current medications and can reduce the negative side effects of their prescribed pharmaceuticals. There is now evidence to suggest that cannabinoids may work as a direct treatment of the disease, but it is also a well-established treatment for alleviating the symptoms of MS.

Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of inherited diseases that damage and weaken your muscles over time. There is no known cure yet and it can be fatal. It is becoming evident that Cannabis may help with the symptoms and complications of this disease. Therapeutic Cannabis effectively relieves extreme pain, including the nerve pain or neuropathies that opioids are used for.

Louisiana joins only four other states in embracing muscular dystrophy as a qualifying condition. Despite the fact that perhaps fewer than 150 Louisiana patients suffer from the disease, legislators agreed to include these patients and should be commended for giving these individuals a chance. Whether Cannabis ever emerges as a cure for this deadly disease or whether it simply works to treat symptoms, it is an appropriate therapeutic option for consideration. Either way, therapeutic Cannabis likely offers a brighter future or an alternate avenue for relief for people suffering from this disease.

Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects motor function and coordination and is typically characterized by bradykinesia (abnormally slow movement), rigidity, resting tremor, cognitive decline, postural instability and occasionally even psychosis. The underlying cause of the disease is still unknown and to date, there is no cure.

PD generally affects people over the age of sixty. The use of Cannabis medicines in the treatment of PD, as is the case with many disease states, is presently inconclusive and so it is clear that much more research into this treatment is necessary. Nevertheless, there have been some very promising studies published in the area over the past fifteen years. Analysis of different motor symptoms revealed significant improvement for tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, pain reduction and sleep quality. In addition to the cannabidiol or CBD in Cannabis delaying the progression of PD due to its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it can reduce general symptoms and motor symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
Military combat, intense violence, human and natural disasters, automobile accidents, childhood abuse, and physical or sexual abuse are just a sampling of events that can lead to post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. An individual suffers from PTSD if the initial reaction to the stress of these events, through either witnessing or experiencing that event, produces fear, nausea, dizziness, depression and/or sleep disturbances that can then persist for several weeks or even decades and for many can be life threatening.

Since the antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotics typically prescribed for PTSD patients can cause severe side effects and have demonstrated only modest effectiveness, many are desperate for a less toxic and more effective treatment. For some, that option is Cannabis. Yet this is another long neglected or understudied area of Cannabis science that merits further review and deeper inquiry. We do know that when cannabinoid receptors in a patient’s nervous system are triggered by THC, their PTSD symptoms often subside.
One of the targets for cannabinoids is in the regulation of creation, consolidation and extinguishing of emotional memories. There is now evidence that cannabinoids including cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce the acute response to stress, the negative response to the perceived threat and simultaneously still support the extinction of the source fear to help reduce the acute anxiety experienced by PTSD sufferers.

Spastic Quadriplegia
Despite the fact that spastic quadriplegia was added to the list of “qualifying conditions” or disease states for Louisiana back in 1991, there still hasn’t been enough international scientific research dedicated to the effects of therapeutic Cannabis on this condition. Spastic Quadriplegia is the most severe of the three types of spastic cerebral palsy.

Treating physicians typically must find the best treatment for the associated symptoms and some of the major symptoms caused by this disorder have shown notable improvement from therapeutic Cannabis medicine. These include: chronic pain, muscle spasticity, seizures, sleep disturbance, anxiety and depression. With no known cure at present, the primary focus of modern medicine for this disease is on treatment and controlling the associated side effects rather than on a cure. However, the limited studies that have been conducted have shown favorable results and there is significant anecdotal evidence supporting the use of Cannabis as a positive treatment option for these patients.

Spasticity/Severe Muscle Spasms
Spasticity essentially means muscle stiffness and is a feature of altered skeletal muscle performance with a combination of paralysis, increased tendon reflex activity and hypertonia (increased tightness of muscle tone and reduced capacity of the muscle to stretch caused by damage to the motor nerve pathways in the central nervous system). In common usage, spasticity is often referred to as an unusual “tightness,” stiffness, or “pull” of one’s muscles. Approximately 15,000 Louisianans are afflicted.

Anecdotally, Cannabis has long been observed to reduce muscle spasm and spasticity. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in particular reduces spasticity, but how? In one study from California in 2012, researchers studied the efficacy of inhaled Cannabis on both MS pain and spasticity in particular. Participating patients were evaluated and the results showed a significant reduction in spasticity when patients received Cannabis rather than the placebo. There is strong evidence that those Cannabis medicines combining both THC and CBD in an oral dose rather than isolates of either are what works best for reducing spasticity in patients.

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