What are the effects of Cannabis on Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative condition that affects the nerves in the central nervous system. There is currently no cure, but treatment may slow its progression. Marijuana may be useful for treating several symptoms of the condition.  Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a serious and lifelong condition that causes a range of symptoms, which can become debilitating.

Almost 1 million adults in the U.S. may have MS, according to the National Multiple Slcerosis Society. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke suggest a lower figure, of 250,000–350,000, but they add that it is difficult to know exactly how many people it affects.

In people with MS, the immune system is overactive and causes damage to cells in the brain, spinal cord, or optical nerves that make up the central nervous system.

Benefits of marijuana for MS

THC may increase appetite, reduce nausea, and improve muscle control issues.  CBD may be useful for controlling epileptic seizures and treating mental health conditions. Both chemicals can reduce pain and inflammation in the body.

Epidiolex, the only cannabis-derived drug that the FDA have approved, contains almost no THC and is almost 100% CBD.

May help muscle control

In a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, researchers gave people with MS either an oral extract of marijuana or a placebo for 12 weeks. The researchers found that people in the marijuana group experienced almost twice as much relief from muscle stiffness.

A large 2011 study involved 572 people with MS who took either oral marijuana extract or a placebo. The authors concluded that marijuana extract is an effective treatment for spasticity in people with MS. Spasticity is the continuous contraction of certain muscles, and it is a common symptom of MS.  In 2014, a systematic review found strong evidence to support the use of marijuana-based treatments for MS-related muscle problems.

The views on the use of medical cannabis for spasticity is still diverge. The American National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that the Society supports the rights of people with multiple sclerosis to work with their multiple sclerosis health care providers to access marijuana for medical purposes. In accordance with the legal regulation in those states where such use has been approved. Conversely, a 2014 declaration by the American Academy of Neurology on the use of marijuana and its derivative for the treatment of multiple sclerosis states that oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC, including Sativex, are probably effective for reducing patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain. But not MS-related spasticity measured by tests administered by the physician.  Smoked cannabis research has not produced enough evidence to assess its safety or effectiveness for treating multiple sclerosis symptoms. The long-term safety of marijuana use for multiple sclerosis symptoms management is not yet known. 

Sources:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323948.php

Prof. Elon Eisenberg - Technion

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