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Aug-18-2007 20:26printcomments

Restless Leg Syndrome: Medical Marijuana Patients’ Say it Works

Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician and Toxicologist.

Restless leg syndrome
Image courtesy: sleepdisordersfyi.com

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - There may be 10 million RLS patients in the U.S. This will be good news to them. I was one of the first doctors to sign up patients for Oregon’s medical marijuana permits. I had patients number 13 and 14.

Through the five years I was able to work before the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners revoked my license, I had between 4 and 6 thousand patients. I never did count them because I saw patients in at least twenty places from the coast to Bend and Klamath Falls in Eastern Oregon.

Why I had to travel all over the state is not a mystery. Other doctors were afraid of their own shadows and big brother to do this. However, eventually 2,200 doctors did shake off their paranoia and finally joined the club. Hoorah.

The original medical marijuana bill in California in 1998 required the following disease entities to get a “permit”: cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, and arthritis.

This was a rather loose list but it did give the doctor the option of recommending it for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” This gave California doctors wide latitude for issuing permits.

Dr. Tod Mikiyuria found after interviewing and/or reviewing about 30,000 patient charts that marijuana was effective for about 200 separate medical entities.

It is difficult for most physicians to believe it could be effective for such a wide variety of conditions, and I as a Professor of Pharmacology took in all this with a grain of salt till I started seeing affected patients. It was one surprise after another. I got over the idea that the patients might be faking it to get a permit because it cost about $150 dollars to go through my clinics and the state charged $100 dollars for the permit. Would the patients fake it if it still cost $250 dollars? I doubt it.

When the first patient came in with “restless leg syndrome” I was bemused for a while. What’s going on here, I said to myself.

I knew that quadriplegics, paraplegics, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy patients had legs that jumped around and marijuana gave them relief. All these seemed to be treated poorly with valium-like drugs and the doses were high enough to be strongly sedative and extremely addicting. It didn’t take many doctor “smarts” to figure out if the restless leg patient said marijuana works, it must be so.

According to T.V. news programs, about 10 million patients have restless legs. Marijuana is a nice, safe, effective medicine. The big problem is that only in eleven states can the patients get a permit to use marijuana legally.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR. LEVEQUE? Email: newsroom@salem-news.com or simply write a comment at the bottom of the page. You do not have to use your real name if you are not comfortable doing so. We will do our best to have your questions addressed in upcoming segments.




Comments

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Anonymous January 10, 2013 2:35 am (Pacific time)

As a medical doctor, I 'm sure you know what Restless Legs Syndrome is and why it is such a disabling disease. I will say a few words about it for the benefit of others who may read this post. First of all it is a disease with the new name Willis-Ekbom Disease. Most people would assume the main symptom is involuntary movement of the legs, but this is entirely wrong. The leg movement is voluntary, and is the only means of temporarily getting rid of the real primary symptom, which is an intense, often distressing sensation in the lower legs that will not go away without movement at the very least, or standing up, which is more likely. Life for me, without medication, would be virtually unlivable. I'd go without sleep until I went mad. I have had this condition since I was probably four years old or even younger. In 2003 it got many times worse due to some unrelated medications which were prescribed. It has never gotten better. I now take mirapex 1.5mg ER. That controls it well, but there are side effects. Mirapex is a dopamine agonist, a Parkinsons Disease drug. Now for my questions. Does medical marijuana relieve the distressing sensation of RLS? I have no interest in smoking weed to stop my legs from moving. I need relief of this horrible sensation. Since my case has worsened, the sensations now cover my legs, torso, arms and lower face/mouth/gums. Have you observed patients with my severity of RLS finding relief by using MM? I live in Michigan, so I have the option of getting MM for this condition. I'd like to have some evidence going in, that this could actually work. My condition is considered by my neurologist to be a severe case. I do have the complication that I am a recovering alcoholic. I realize the danger associated with medical marijuana use for me, but if it provided relief so that I could get of Mirapex, it could prove to be worth the risk. Thanks for whatever input you may have.


RLS SUFFERER September 13, 2012 4:22 pm (Pacific time)

DR. LEVEQUE,

I am a XX year old single white male currently residing in (non medical marijuana state) - and I have severe restless leg syndrome, which is exasperated by my screwed up dopamine system (medications like hydrocodone are like caffeine to me, not calming at all). Unfortunately I have spent the past 3 years discovering that not only do I develop “tolerance” quickly, but I also “augment” to the degree of debilitation on the main 3 available drugs – Sinemet, Mirapex, and Requip.

I am currently on my 4th doctor in 2 years. The first 2 didn’t even know what augmentation was, so they made matters worse.

The first tried Sinemet, and when I said the awful feeling had spread to my arms and was present 24 hours a day, he didn’t believe me. So I found another so-called “specialist”, who switched me to Mirapex (he probably looked it up).

It kept getting worse, and he told me to “man up” and stay on it. I did so for 8 months before I finally went 5 days without sleep and 8 days without eating – it was the worst year of my life. When I started to hallucinate I decided enough was enough and I got on a plane and flew to XXXXXX where my mother could take over (I couldn’t even think straight by this time).

My mother got me into a specialist there (The 3rd doctor) and he recognized the “augmentation” right off (this was the 1st I’d ever heard of it – google "RLS Augmentation). He switched me to Requip. Within 6 weeks, as my tolerance kept building up he finally threw up his hands when we reached 5/500 hydrocodone, 2 mg requip, 1200 mg horizant and I was still experiencing augmentation and the restless legs were starting to trigger again.

This led me to my current doctor who is a world specialist in the condition and is a research doctor at the XXXXXXX (he only went to work there less than a year ago, so he wasn’t actually around when I was looking for someone in XXXXXX). My current doctor switched me to 15 mg Methadone per day (no, I have never done heroine). This is working fine on the restless legs, but the methadone is such an upper to me (I mentioned the hydrocodone above) that I am wired all the time and can’t sleep.

I take 5 mg methadone 3 times per day. It takes about 2 hours to kick in (at which time I become “wired”), leaves me wired for about 4 hours, then I start to crash for the next 2 hours. I take my next dose at that time, fall asleep for about an hour, and an hour later the next wired episode starts. So I go 4 hours “UP”, followed by 4 hours “DOWN”, and I only get the 1 hour sleep every 8 hours (do the math and that works out to approx 3 hours sleep per day – this has been going on for 5 weeks since I 1st started seeing this doctor).

The doctor doesn’t believe me. Even when I begged to be put into a facility so he could see for himself he only said “I am a research doctor and am not affiliated with any hospitals”, and referred me to a psychiatric hospital (this was 2 days ago). I am so sleep deprived at the moment that I finally blew up and said:

“How about I follow you around for the next 5 weeks, and every time you are about to fall asleep I reach over and jerk your leg; then after 5 weeks when you complain about sleep deprivation I refer you to a psychiatrist!!!!”

Needless to say he was not amused. He did nothing and I am at my wits’ end!!!! I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands. I’ve spent the past 24 hours (I don’t sleep much remember). I googled “restless leg syndrome” and started reading every article I could get my hands on. That’s when I first read about medical marijuana being effective. I did some more research and found that XXXXX and XXXXXX are both medical marijuana states (I wanted to try and find the closest state to XXXXX where my family lives). I am prepared to get on a plane at this moment and fly to wherever I can to see if medical marijuana works for my restless leg syndrome. Unfortunately those states have residency laws and that wouldn’t help me now. And that brings me to you.

I am prepared to quit my job (I’ve already lost my marriage over this) and move to Oregon, but I need to know if medical marijuana will actually work with the severity of my condition.

I can fly to Oregon at this very moment to see you.

Desperately seeking help,
RLS SUFFERER


joni September 4, 2012 10:14 pm (Pacific time)

I am going to be 28 this yr. I've had awful pains through out my body some days where I can't move or touch my body. My doctors look @ me crazy cuz I'm young I guess and finally I guess he felt bad cus I was in tears did sum tests . Tells me he thinks I have fybromialga. And also mentioned RLS. Htmmm I no that ive tried several different meds and way too many side effects.. but when u smoke I finally stop hurting. But I wud like to get legal . Jus dnt bi how


J-Dog January 23, 2012 4:46 pm (Pacific time)

I have a brain and spinal tumor. I've been treated with major surgery and radiation to my lifetime limit. I have suffered from RLS the last couple years (I have bad neuropathy from the waiste down). I have bad RLS which prevent sleep. I have baked cookies with marijuana, which is the only medication I've found that helps the problem.


Dwight in Oregon May 9, 2011 8:17 am (Pacific time)

I've had RLS the past 3-4 years it is relentless. I wouldn't wish it on anybody. Anyhow, i read that Marijauna helps RLS and i have been experimenting. It really does work! I'm afraid to ask my Doctor at this juncture for a card but i'm glad to see others are getting relief. It may give me the courage to ask my doctor for a card.


Anonymous December 14, 2009 7:07 pm (Pacific time)

Does anyone know where I can find a study about CMT and medical marijuana?

Editor: I only see one reference to  Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease on this story: Medical Marijuana Medical Conditions - Dr. Phillip Leveque Salem-News.comIf you are interested, please email us and we can consult with Dr. Phil Leveque, please drop me a line at tim@salem-news.com


alex September 24, 2009 11:24 am (Pacific time)

I too have Charcot Marie Tooth...Was given all the neurontin type stuff, then oxycontin...Xanax worked for my tremors, BUT Marijuana literally makes my life possible...without it I would be sick all the time, hurting, unhappy, uncomfortable, depressed..you name it...Marijuana makes me normal for those few hours in terms of how I feel.


S February 10, 2009 11:12 am (Pacific time)

Yes, isn't it interesting that RLS is now a "real" disease now that there are expensive commercial pharma drugs to treat it. I have also discovered that a small dose of marijuana alleviates my RLS symptoms and lets me get a full night's sleep with zero side effects the other day. Thankfully I live in Canada where the consequences are possession are low and drug testing at work is largely considered an invasion of privacy.


Dr. Leveque (RESPONSE) November 9, 2007 12:50 pm (Pacific time)

Move to Oregon. The closest state to you is Maryland, but I suggest you start packing. A person ought to be able to go to their doctor and have the doctor write down that all other drugs have been tried and marijuana works best. But, he would be tried for aiding and abetting marijuana addiction. Isn't this disgusting? (yes.)


cntryloner August 19, 2007 8:12 am (Pacific time)

I had suffered from RLS for "years" but no one (Dr's) seemed to believe me when I explained it to them. NOW all of a sudden it is a "known disease". I also suffer from C.M.T. (Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease) diagnosed in 2003. After being on man made narcotics (Valium for RLS - Morphine for CMT) for the past 3 1/2 yrs I started using Marijuana (with MUCH FEAR)and now no longer use medications that I had bad side effects from. I am able to function very well now and can even drive again. I am NOT foggy headed as I was with the man-made drugs. This drug that everyone hates so much is "literally" a God send. Yes I am VERY AFRAID of going to prison, but the benefits out weigh the fear at this point. I am SO HAPPY to see Physicians and "some" Politicians having the courage to speak out about a plant that is so beneficial and grows quite naturally - although I NEVER see the drug industry allowing Marijuana to be used, they would lose too much money because it helps in so many areas. Pain free in Missouri.

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