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Overview of Spastic Quadriplegia

Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood. Spastic quadriplegia is caused by brain damage or abnormalities that develop most commonly before birth. The damage prevents the brain from effectively controlling movement or maintaining posture and balance.

The specific types of brain damage that can cause spastic quadriplegia, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is damage to the white matter of the brain, abnormal development of the brain, bleeding in the brain, and severe lack of oxygen in the brain.

The spastic quadriplegia type of cerebral palsy affects all four limbs, the trunk and the face, and often causes moderate-to-severe intellectual disability. Spastic quadriplegia causes children to experience severe muscle stiffness in their limbs and a loose, floppy neck. The condition commonly prevents them from walking or speaking clearly. In addition, it can cause frequent and uncontrollable seizures. Chronic pain develops due to severely tight muscles.

While spastic quadriplegia cannot be cured, treatment can help manage the condition’s associated symptoms and help many children eventually have near-normal lives as adults. Therapy efforts can include physical, occupational, recreational, speech and language therapies, medications to relax stiff muscles, surgery to lengthen muscles, and assistive devices to help with communication and mobility.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Spastic Quadriplegia

The limited amount of research on cannabis’ effect on cerebral palsy conditions suggests that marijuana does offer therapeutic benefits. Adults with cerebral palsy participating in a survey on the effectiveness of treatments responded that marijuana, though rarely used, provided the most pain relief (Hirsh, Kratz, Engel & Jensen, 2011). In addition, a case study of a 45-year-old man with a type of cerebral palsy that caused seizures found that marijuana treatment caused a marked improvement (Mortati, Dworetzky & Devinsky, 2007). One animal research study study found that treating newborn mice or rats with white matter brain damage mimicking that of cerebral palsy provided neuroprotective effects and protected the developing brain (Shouman, et al., 2006).

There’s markedly more research demonstrating cannabis’ medical efficacy for symptoms like spasms, seizures and pain associated with other conditions that support its use as a treatment opportunity for spastic quadriplegia. The two major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) act upon the endocannabinoid system via the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, which reduce muscle spasms, seizures and pain.

Studies have shown cannabis to be effective at significantly reducing muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis (Syed, McKeage & Scott, 2014) (Pertwee, 2002). Multiple scientific reviews have concluded that CBD is a well-tolerated and promising therapeutic treatment that has demonstrated the ability to reduce or even eliminate seizures (Blair, Deshpande & DeLorenzo, 2015) (Rosenberg, Tsien, Whalley & Devinsky, 2015) (Szaflarski & Bebin, 2014) (Devinsky, et al., 2014). One case report analyzing a young epileptic girl found that medical marijuana brought the child’s seizure frequency from nearly 50 convulsive seizures per day to 2-3 nocturnal convulsions per month. In addition, the child was able to wean from the additional antiepileptic drugs she had been taking (Maa & Figi, 2014). In addition, cannabis has demonstrated the ability to significantly lower pain levels in patients suffering from neuropathic and nociceptive pain, and has even shown it can help manage pain that has proven refractory to other treatments (Boychuck, Goddard, Mauro & Orellana, 2015) (Lynch & Campbell, 2011). Because of its effectiveness, cannabis is prevalent among the chronic pain population to lower pain levels and improve sleep and mood (Ware, et al., 2003).



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