The Multiple Sclerosis Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by nerve damage that disrupts communication between the brain and body. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that there are more than 2 million individuals living with multiple sclerosis around the world. The prevalence of multiple sclerosis is highest amongst women, individuals living in areas far from the equator, and those between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.

The Multiple Sclerosis Landscape 

Unlike many other conditions, the underlying cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown. What is known is that in the case of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the fatty substances that protect and coat nerve fibers throughout the spinal cord and brain, known as myelin. When myelin is damaged, it exposes the internal nerve fibers and causes messages traveling through those nerves to become blocked or delayed, resulting in a wide spectrum of different symptoms and ailments.

Within the multiple sclerosis landscape, four disease courses have been identified: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Each of these defined disease courses is characterized by specific criteria, resulting in various symptom sets for each patient.

Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include but are not limited to the following.

  • Vertigo
  • Imbalance
  • Numbness and tingling in the face and/or extremities
  • Weakness
  • Double vision
  • Bowel and bladder Issues
  • Pain
  • Concentration issues

Sometimes other less common symptoms can occur, including paralysis, seizures, hearing loss, speech issues, tremors, and blindness.

When Should You Seek Help for Multiple Sclerosis? 

If you or a loved one are experiencing any or a combination of the signs and symptoms listed above, and have been experiencing them for a prolonged period of time on a consistent basis, it is highly recommended that you seek evaluation from a medical care provider. If you have experienced vision loss, paralysis, acute numbness or tingling, or double vision that has been consistent for several hours, it is essential that you seek medical help immediately.

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

Seeing how there are no specific laboratory or radiology tests for diagnosing multiple sclerosis, doctors must rely on eliminating other possible conditions that are known for producing symptoms similar to that of MS. This type of diagnosis is known as a differential diagnosis, which is completed through an examination of your medical history and a physical exam. After these are performed, doctors commonly also request blood tests, MRIs, and spinal taps, among other potential tests, to further solidify a proper diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. For those that have previously been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, the diagnosis is fairly straightforward as it is based on a pattern of symptoms consistent with that seen in the past and can easily be confirmed by brain imaging scans, such as MRI.

The Endocannabinoid System & Multiple Sclerosis

The body’s endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in our body’s overall well-being. According to research, it appears that cannabinoids may also play a pivotal role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry, cannabinoid-based extracts provide significant efficiency in decreasing muscle stiffness and body pain as well as increasing sleep quality in MS patients.

A study published in the European Journal of Neurology one year earlier concluded that spasticity levels within patients were significantly lower in those given cannabis extracts in comparison to those given placebo.

Traditional Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

While there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, there are a wide variety of treatments that are often employed to provide patients with a better quality of life. These treatments include medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and alternative medicines. The most common medications prescribed to those with MS include corticosteroids, interferon beta medications, muscle relaxants, medications to reduce fatigue, and medications for accompanying symptoms such as pain, depression, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction.

Plant Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers with BOD Australia are recruiting patients that have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for an open-label observational study of safety and efficiency utilising pharmaceutical-grade cannabis medicine for various indications. Learn more about this clinical trial and register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Opioid Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Statistics published in 2021 by the UNSW Sydney National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre noted several statistics surrounding drug-induced deaths in Australia for 2019. These findings concluded that of all drug-related deaths in Australia, 61% of them were a result of opioids. For the past two decades in Australia, opioids have been listed as the primary drug cited in drug-related fatalities. In 2019, opioids were the underlying cause of over 1,100 deaths, with nearly 900 of them being unintentional.

The Opioid Consumption Landscape 

The opioid consumption landscape is a frightening one worldwide. For several years countries, cities, and other municipalities have faced an opioid epidemic. Many of the world’s large manufacturers of opioid-based pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone have been the center of lawsuits over the past two decades.

According to a study published in 2021, there are currently ten opioids that have been approved in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, encapsulating more than 120 different formulations. This study noted that between 1997 and 2018, the number of patients being prescribed “strong opioids” increased 11-fold from nearly 28,300 patients to 332,307 patients. The number of medical practitioners prescribing opioids in Australia also quadrupled during that time.

Similar statistics can be seen in the US where, in 2020, nearly 143 million prescriptions were written for opioids. However, at the height of the epidemic in the US in 2012, 81 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 people.

How Opioids Work and Why They Present a Risk

Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain management. Unfortunately, they have been proven time and time again to be highly addictive, habit forming, and extremely dangerous. This is because of how opioids work. For opioids to provide the pain-relieving benefits that they are prescribed for, they attach to proteins on nerve cells throughout the body known as opioid receptors. These receptors are common in the brain, gut, and spinal cord, along with other parts of the body. When opioids bind to these proteins, they block pain signals that are being sent from the body to the brain via the spinal cord. Because opioids directly affect signaling within the spinal cord and brain, they can have drastic effects on, among other things, our ability to breathe, and when taken in abundance, can lead to fatality through respiratory distress when these receptors become overloaded.

Signs of Opioid Overconsumption and Addiction

Common signs of opioid overconsumption or opioid overdose include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Altered mental state such as extreme delirium or confusion
  • Breathing issues
  • Loss of alertness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unresponsiveness

Signs of opioid addiction include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Consumption of opioids for euphoria rather than prescribed intention
  • Lower motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Poor decision making

When Should You Seek Help for Opioid Consumption? 

When utilised as prescribed for short periods of time, opioids offer substantial benefits. However, with prolonged use, misuse, and overconsumption, there are many risks to consuming these pharmaceuticals. If you experience any of the signs and symptoms of opioid overconsumption as listed above, it is highly advisable that you seek medical evaluation immediately. Aside from fatality, overconsumption of opioids can lead to a wide variety of other medical issues that can cause long-term damage.

The Endocannabinoid System & Opioid Consumption

Within the body, there is a system known as the endocannabinoid system that includes cannabinoid receptors that work with cannabinoids produced by the body naturally, as well as those found in cannabis and hemp plants. Just as opioids attach to receptors, cannabinoids do the same to cannabinoid receptors in a very similar manner. However, an overload of cannabinoids to this system will not cause respiratory or other potentially fatal issues.

Numerous studies have looked at the efficiency of cannabinoid therapies for reducing pain and have provided very positive conclusions. Not only does it appear that cannabinoids may be able to provide pain-relieving properties to patients, but it also appears that the utilisation of cannabinoids may help to reduce opioid intake in chronic opioid users.

A 2020 article published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research Journal set out to determine how cannabis may be able to be utilised as an alternative or in conjunction with opioid treatment for intermittent and chronic opioid users. The study concluded the following:

“In this long-term observational study, cannabis use worked as an alternative to prescription opioids in just over half of patients with low back pain and as an adjunct to diminish use in some chronic opioid users.”

An analysis published in Med Page Today noted a correlation between the number of cannabis dispensaries available for access and a reduction in opioid-related fatalities. This included a 17% reduction in opioid fatalities where access to cannabis dispensaries increased.

Traditional Treatments for Opioid Overconsumption and Addiction

If an opioid overdose occurs, medications such as naloxone are often administered as they have been proven to reverse the effects of opioids. Additionally, if breathing is impaired, many times, breathing machines are employed. In the event of opioid addiction, there are several different types of therapies that can be employed. Most often, patients work with rehabilitation professionals in order to detoxify their bodies of opioids. This often includes the gradual discontinuation of opioids, opioid replacement therapy, and counseling to address underlying concerns that could be causing the addiction. In cases of chronic opioid addiction, sometimes patients are prescribed other narcotics to help promote sleep, dull the senses, and help with pain.

Plant Therapies for Opioid Consumption Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Researchers with Murdoch University and the Perth Pain Management Centre are currently recruiting patients with chronic non-cancer-related pain for a study that will look at the efficiency of medicinal cannabis in relieving pain. You can learn more about this study or register your interest learn more about this study or register your interest here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Tourette Syndrome Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Tourette syndrome (TS) is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder. This condition is characterized by repetitive involuntary movements and sounds known as tics. According to the CDC, it is estimated that one out of every 162 children worldwide have TS. In Australia, it is estimated that as many as one in every 100 school children may live with this condition, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Other statistics suggest that approximately one in every 200 adults in Australia also live with Tourette syndrome. 

The Tourette Syndrome Landscape 

Tourette syndrome is a condition that often develops in early childhood and tends to affect men more prevalently than women. In many cases, symptoms of TS can improve naturally with age, and for some, they can completely go away. While some individuals with TS may only have motor-based tics, others will experience motor and vocal tics. These typically come in uncontrollable repetitive movements or actions such as clearing the throat, blinking eyes, or moving body parts swiftly. For those that also experience vocal tics, they are most commonly experienced through vocally blurting outwards unintentionally. Although there are no known cures for Tourette syndrome, when tics do not naturally go away with age and are uncontrollable to the point where they interfere with daily activities, treatment options are available that have shown great success.

Signs of Tourette Syndrome

The most common sign or symptoms of Tourette syndrome are motor and/or vocal tics. These can be seen in various actions, such as the ones listed below.

Motor Tics

  • • Mouth twitching
  • • Shrugging of shoulders
  • • Excessive blinking
  • • Involuntary arm or head jerking

Vocal Tics

  • • Swearing
  • • Sniffing
  • • Shouting
  • • Repeating words of others
  • • Clearing throat
  • • Barking or yelping
  • • Grunting

When Should You Seek Help for Tourette Syndrome? 

If you or a loved one are experiencing a combination of the involuntary actions listed above or have noticed an increase in their occurrence, it is advisable to seek medical consultation. TS can be very interruptive to your daily life, but there are treatment options available that may offer substantial help.

How Is Tourette Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are no defined tests available to definitively provide a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome; however, blood tests and imaging studies such as MRIs can be helpful in ruling out other conditions that may be causing related symptoms. Certain criteria must be met to provide a diagnosis of TS. These typically include the occurrence of motor and vocal tics that occur nearly every day multiple times and have done so for more than a year. With TS, tics appear before the age of 18, so for patients experiencing relatable symptoms over the age of 18, symptoms could be related to a different condition or a reaction to medications. These are all things that your doctor will take into consideration when providing a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

The Endocannabinoid System & Tourette Syndrome

The exact cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown. This complex disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Additionally, it is widely accepted that neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses—also play a vital role.

Within the brain’s basal ganglia exists a high concentration of endocannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that when cannabinoids such as THC and CBD from cannabis and hemp plants bind to those receptors, the result may be decreased involuntary movements. Science suggests that cannabinoids provide this effect by helping to regulate neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. A highly referenced 1998 research study from Germany concluded that when TS patients consumed cannabinoid therapies, 82% of participants reported significant improvement, with one patient going into remission for over a year.

Traditional Treatments for Tourette Syndrome

Traditional treatments for Tourette syndrome include various therapies and medications. Doctors will commonly prescribe medications to block or decrease the production of dopamine, which has been shown to help control tics. Additionally, the use of Botox injections, ADHD medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications may be employed. For those that experience severe tics, deep brain stimulation, also known as DBS therapy, may sometimes be recommended. This type of therapy involves implanting a medical device in the brain that delivers electrical stimulation to areas within the brain that are responsible for controlling movement. This is an experimental treatment and is often avoided with the exception of severe cases. It isn’t uncommon, however, for Tourette syndrome patients to undergo behavior therapy, psychotherapy for a combination of both.

Plant Therapies for Tourette Syndrome Clinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers at the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Lambert initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics are recruiting TS patients for a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial. This trial will employ the utilization of THC and CBD and will take an in-depth look at their effect on TS-based vocal and motor-based tics. You can learn more about the study and register your interest here

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.

The Dementia Landscape and Plant Therapy-Based Clinical Trials

Dementia is a general term used to describe a set of symptoms characterized by the deterioration of cognitive function. Dementia tends to develop later in life, mostly affecting the elderly. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 10 million new cases of dementia each year and more than 55 million people living with it worldwide. According to statistics from Dementia Australia, there are an estimated 472,000 people living with dementia in Australia, a number that is expected to increase to over 1 million by the year 2058. Of those living with dementia worldwide, women outnumber men two to one.

The Dementia Landscape 

The loss of cognitive and psychological functions is due to the loss of or damage to nerve cells and their connections within the brain. Where this damage occurs can highly influence the different symptoms experienced by patients. There are various known forms of progressive dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, age-related brain disorder that is thought to develop over a period of years.  There are also other forms of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Each of these types of dementia is characterised by its own set of cognitive and behavioral issues.

Signs of Dementia

While with every patient the exact symptoms of dementia may differ, some of the most common symptoms and signs of dementia include changes in cognitive and psychological aspects. Below you can find a list of the most common cognitive and psychological changes that may be signs of dementia.

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty with reasoning, problem solving, or handling complex tasks
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased disorientation or confusion
  • Increased memory loss, often noticeable by outside parties

When Should You Seek Help for Dementia? 

If you feel that you or a loved one may have dementia or are experiencing a combination of the symptoms listed above, it is highly advisable to seek medical consultation. When experiencing these symptoms, it is important to determine the cause as quickly as possible as they may be due to medical conditions that can be treated. In the case of dementia, however, there is unfortunately no known cure at this time.

How Is Dementia Diagnosed?

To diagnose dementia, a doctor will have to thoroughly define the pattern of a person’s deterioration of function and skills as well as determine a person’s current abilities. To make an accurate dementia diagnosis, doctors may perform cognitive and neuropsychological tests as well as brain scans, psychiatric evaluations, laboratory tests, and neurological evaluations. Thankfully due to progression in research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease (AD), biomarkers are starting to become available to help provide a more accurate diagnosis.

The Endocannabinoid System & Dementia

There have been several studies that have concluded that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in neuropathology, neurobiology, and neurotransmission of dementia. A review of clinical and preclinical data surrounding cannabinoids and dementia concluded that there are “several lines of evidence that have demonstrated the role of cannabinoids in dementia.” This review also urged the need for pursuing the use of cannabinoid compounds in the field of dementia treatment. A study titled “Targeting the Endocannabinoid System in Alzheimer’s Disease” concluded that “Inflammation and oxidative stress are generally accepted as a critical risk factor for the development of AD, and intervention such as cannabinoids that attenuate these risks without arresting microglial activity and have innate neuroprotective benefits are attractive as potential preventative treatments for AD.”

Traditional Treatments for Dementia

Traditional treatments for dementia include medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors that boost the levels of chemical messengers within the brain that increase memory and judgment functions, as well as memantine and other medications to address common accompanying symptoms and conditions such as sleep issues, hallucinations, agitation, and depression. Sometimes therapies such as occupational therapy will be employed in addition to modifying the patient’s environment and simplifying their daily tasks.

Plant Therapies for DementiaClinical Trial Synopsis 

Currently, researchers at the University of Notre Dame are recruiting individuals that have been diagnosed with dementia for a randomised, double-blind, crossover placebo-based clinical trial that will investigate the effects of medicinal cannabis on behavioral symptoms in dementia patients. To learn more about inclusion criteria or to register your interest in this clinical study, see the official details here.

To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.