Can Cannabis Aid in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms?

Researchers across North America have been conducting studies on the effectiveness of Multiple Sclerosis treatment through cannabis. Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system; it mainly affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. There are an estimated 77,000 Canadians and 400,000 Americans living with Multiple Sclerosis. Based on a survey from ATLAS, the estimated number of people with MS had increased from 2.1 million in 2008 to 2.3 million in 2013 on a global scale.

Currently, there is no cure for MS, and people are seeking alternative methods outside of standard pharmaceuticals and physical therapy to help treat their various symptoms.

Cannabis is one of the top considerations for people with living with MS. 77% of MS participants in a 2018 study said that medical cannabis was helpful in managing their symptoms. Pain and spasticity (a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted) were the primary symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis to benefit from cannabis use. MS study participants stated that they spend an estimated $100-$300 per month on medical cannabis.

“MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment, and mood changes.” – MS Society Canada

MS and Cannabis
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Cannabis has been known to offer a wide range of medical benefits such as relief from pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, PMS and more. Unfortunately in places where recreational or medicinal cannabis is not legalized, people with Multiple Sclerosis cannot get cannabis prescriptions or consultations regarding cannabis from doctors. Even in places such as Colorado – where cannabis has been legalized -, doctors can make a recommendation for cannabis, but it must be approved by a state agency. This leads those with Multiple Sclerosis to self medicate and create their own cannabis dosages for relief.

“…a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that out of 75 cannabis products, only 17 percent were accurately labeled. And 23 percent contained significantly more THC than labeled, possibly placing patients at risk of experiencing adverse effects.”

Although cannabis has the potential to offer some relief, some adverse effects have been reported. Individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis may experience increased anxiety, paranoia, heart rate irregularities, nausea and more; depending on the type of cannabis consumed and the amount used.   

Cerebellar Degeneration
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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis which does not get users high. Depending on the Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, the right dosage of CBD may be the right option for MS patients looking for an alternative from Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is known to have strong anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Sativex is cannabis oil with an infusion of CBD and THC, and can be prescribed to Multiple Sclerosis patients who have not found symptom relief with traditional pharmaceutical drugs.

“I had severe excruciating pain from muscle spasms, but the muscles themselves aren’t to blame,” she said. “It’s coming from damage on my spine and the muscle relaxers and pain pills go right to the muscle itself. Cannabis reduces inflammation, slowing down the disease activity and calming your entire system. It truly saved my life when my doctor ran out of answers. My miracle plant.”Carolyn Kaufman, MS advocate

There is much more research required to determine if cannabis can be incorporated as a core medical solution to relieve Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. At this time there is no clear indicators in pinpointing how MS develops, nor is there a cure. Do you have any family or friends who use cannabis as an alternative for Multiple Sclerosis treatment? Do you have any experience with MS? Share your thoughts below.