Does Medical Marijuana Help Treat MS?
If you are interested in using medical marijuana to treat MS, here are some things you should know.
By Multiple Sclerosis Connect Staff November 14 495 1
Multiple sclerosis treatments don’t always provide enough relief. Many people with MS wonder if medical marijuana might help them manage their symptoms. In 2014, the North American Research Committee on MS surveyed 5,600 people with the condition. The results showed that 53 percent had at least considered using marijuana and 20 percent had discussed the matter with their doctor. If you are interested in this treatment option, here are some things you should know.
There have been some promising results from some studies of cannabis use by individuals with MS. For example, a review by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) found strong evidence to support the use of oral cannabis extract (OCE) to reduce spasticity and the resulting pain.
In a study of people with stable MS, researchers administered OCE to 144 subjects and placebo to 135 others. The results, reported on PubMed, showed that after 12 weeks, muscle stiffness relief was nearly doubled in those who took the cannabis compared to the others.
According to the AAN, moderate evidence suggests that a synthetic version of the main chemical compound in cannabis may also reduce spasticity. Similar results were found in studies of an oral cannabinoid spray which has already been approved for use in Canada and some European nations. Moderate evidence shows that the spray may reduce spasticity symptoms, associated pain, and frequent urination.
Side effects and risks
While some study results have been promising, medical marijuana use may also present problems. Mayo Clinic says that possible side effects of cannabis include dizziness, hallucinations, trouble balancing, depression, psychosis, and difficulty concentrating. Moreover, a study published in Neurology found that people with MS who smoked marijuana performed worse on cognitively demanding tasks.
Research into the effects of marijuana on MS is ongoing, and there is still much to learn about how the drug might help. Though medical marijuana remains a controversial and legally complex topic in the United States, some leading MS advocates support further studies. The National MS Society also says that it supports the right of people coping with MS symptoms to consult with physicians and come to their own decisions about marijuana use.
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