Nearly a million adults in the United States live with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that causes the immune system to damage the nerves in the central nervous system. There is no known cure for this lifelong condition, though some scientists believe medical marijuana can be beneficial in treating some of its symptoms.
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary with each person. Since this disease affects the cells in the brain and spinal cord, some patients may lose their ability to walk, while others may have trouble moving their limbs. Those living with MS may also face vision problems and loss of balance, among other serious disabilities.
What Does Science Say?
Several scientific studies show that marijuana and its cannabinoids can reduce muscle pain and decrease the symptoms of spasticity in people with MS. However, since the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, most of the studies and surveys conducted on the potential benefits of medical marijuana have been rather small.
Nevertheless, now that cannabis has been legalized in several states, many public and private institutions are researching its medicinal benefits. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which supports the use of medical marijuana for people with MS in the states where it is lawful, has also pointed out the need for more research to understand the benefits and risks of cannabis in treating the symptoms of this debilitating disease.
Moreover, a 2018 clinical review stated that cannabis products could help reduce the patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain in people with MS. It also found that cannabinoids were generally well-tolerated among the patients and serious side effects were rare, though they are possible.
Additionally, in a 2018 study by the University of Rochester MS Center in New York, the researchers found that nearly 77% of the participants used marijuana to manage their symptoms, including pain and spasticity. Meanwhile, about 70% of the participants said their quality of life improved after using medical marijuana. They did not report any side effects, but some of them revealed they had reduced the use of other medications for MS.
According to a 2019 survey, a significant percentage of MS patients have used medical marijuana to treat their symptoms.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most studied compounds of cannabis. While scientists have found THC to be effective against nausea, pain, and inflammation, they have also deduced it has psychoactive properties that cause the “high” associated with cannabis. On the other hand, CBD has proven beneficial in treating seizures, anxiety, PTSD, and paranoia. This cannabinoid does not have psychoactive effects and can offset the “high” caused by THC.
Owing to their medicinal properties, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the synthetic forms of these cannabinoids, known as Nabilone and Dronabinol, to treat some cancer symptoms.
While there is sound scientific evidence that states medical marijuana can help treat some of the major symptoms of this disease, more research is needed to determine the safe and effective dosage for the patients.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Multiple Sclerosis
Here are some of the most significant benefits that medical marijuana can have on MS-related symptoms.
Muscle spasticity is the biggest problem for most multiple sclerosis patients. Fortunately, several scientific studies have shown that medical cannabis can help reduce MS-related muscle spasms.
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, scientists found that MS patients who used an oral cannabis extract (OCE) experienced twice as much relief from muscle stiffness than those who received a placebo. Similarly, a 2014 systematic review published by the American Academy of Neurology found OCE effective in reducing muscle spasms and central pain.
Medical marijuana can also help relieve muscle and joint pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.
A 2012 trial showed that when smoked, cannabis could help alleviate the pain and reduce treatment-resistant spasticity in patients with MS. Meanwhile, a 2015 research study showed that topical application of CBD could provide relief from inflammation and arthritis-related pain without any evident adverse effects.
However, more research is required to determine the form of CBD and THC to treat these symptoms.
Potential Risks of Using Cannabis for MS
When it comes to medical marijuana, the lack of standardization and regulation prevents most doctors from prescribing cannabis products to treat MS symptoms. Whether you smoke or dab, it is not always possible to know the right dosage since the THC levels tend to vary with each batch. Similarly, different people may have different reactions to CBD. You also must keep in mind that cannabinoids may interact with some medications under certain conditions.
Here are some of the potential risks associated with using medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Furthermore, if you are using medical marijuana, it is not safe to drive or perform any other activity that requires you to stay alert. In addition, smoking can also have an adverse effect on your lungs.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, cannabis can be beneficial for people with MS. Several small scientific studies have shown that it can reduce inflammation, muscle pain, and spasms among patients. However, more research is required to determine the benefits and side effects of medical marijuana on those with multiple sclerosis.
Moreover, each cannabis strain has a different percentage of CBD and THC, which greatly impacts how a cannabis product may manage your pain. Therefore, please make sure to speak to a medical professional about your condition and find out the most effective solution for your symptoms. Additionally, please learn about your state laws regarding the usage of medical marijuana.
If you are looking for consultation in Oklahoma, Doctors of Cannabis can help you out. All you need to do is book an appointment and consult with one of our experienced doctors. Register with Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) to apply for a medical marijuana card or have us do it for you and receive the card on your doorsteps.
With this card, you can legally purchase medical cannabis from any dispensary in Oklahoma.
To learn more, please give us a call today!