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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Signs and symptoms of MS can vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
It has been found that approximately 350,000 people in the United States are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), a painful, debilitating and sometimes fatal disorder of the central nervous system. MS is the most common debilitating neurological disease of young people, appearing between the ages of 20 and 40, and affecting more women than men.
MS exacerbations appear to be caused by abnormal immune activity that causes inflammation and the destruction of myelin (the protective covering of nerve fibers) in the brain or spinal cord. It is a relapsing and remitting disorder, symptoms come and go. Treatment is primarily symptomatic, focusing on such problems as spasticity, pain, fatigue, bladder problems, and depression.
Anecdotal reports and a little controlled study have reported that cannabis improved spasticity and tremor in MS patients. Cannabis has also demonstrated effects on immune function that shows the potential of reducing the autoimmune attack that is thought to be the underlying pathogenic process in MS.
Many MS patients report that cannabis has a profound effect on muscle spasms, tremors, balance, bladder control, speech, and eyesight. So many patients bound with wheelchair report that they can walk unaided when they have smoked cannabis.
The British Medical Association already cleared the way for the synthetic cannabinoids: Nabilone and Dronabinol to be officially licensed for use in MS and other spastic disorders.
Medical cannabis treatments have proved highly effective at managing many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Here, we take a look at which symptoms, in particular, are positively affected by the use of cannabis or cannabis-based therapies.
Inflammation of neural tissue is the primary characterisation of multiple sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune cells attack the central nervous system, leading to inflammation of the myelin sheaths that enclose the neurons (nerves) in the brain and spinal column. This inflammation ultimately leads to the myelin sheaths becoming irreparably damaged, which in turn causes a range of neurological symptoms including loss of motor control, muscle weakness and spasms, unstable mood and fatigue.
Cannabis is well-known to reduce inflammation and has been used as an anti-inflammatory for thousands of years by physicians and herbalists the world over. In recent years, the ability of cannabis to reduce MS-related inflammation has been thoroughly investigated and has provided the basis for the world’s first market-approved pharmaceutical—Sativex, produced by the UK company GW Pharmaceutical.
Pain is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of MS and is experienced by 50-70% of sufferers. MS-related pain occurs either directly as a result of inflammation of neural tissue, or as a result of muscle spasms and spasticity exerting pressure on the musculoskeletal system.
Cannabis has proven ability to manage pain associated with MS. In a clinical trial conducted on humans in 2005, cannabis-based medicine delivered in the form of a sublingual spray was demonstrated to be significantly more effective than placebo at reducing pain and sleep disturbances in MS sufferers. Smoked cannabis has also been shown to be effective at reducing MS-related pain in several studies, including a patient survey of 112 MS sufferers from the US and UK in which the overwhelming majority reported a decrease in pain on smoking cannabis.
Cannabis reduces pain in MS sufferers by directly working to reduce immune response and resultant inflammation, and also reduces musculoskeletal pain caused by muscle spasms and spasticity. A scientific review published in 2007 indicated that THC was more effective at managing MS-related pain than CBD and dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC.
Muscle spasms—sudden, involuntary contractions of a muscle or muscle group—are another common feature of MS, and are reported by up to 80% of patients. Spasms can cause a sharp, temporary sensation of pain that usually disappears after a short time. Muscle spasticity is a related symptom, and refers to the state of constant contraction of a muscle or muscle group, leading to pain, stiffness and a sensation of “tightness”.
Cannabis has been demonstrated to both reduce the frequency of muscle spasms and the severity of muscle spasticity. In 2005, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study (considered the gold standard of clinical trials) found that 37 of 50 patients enrolled in the study showed improvements in mobility and the frequency of muscle spasms. A randomised controlled trial conducted in 2007 demonstrated that cannabis preparations were more effective than placebo at treating muscle spasticity, although this particular study did not reach statistical significance.
CLINICAL STUDY RESOURCES:
- CBD counteracted the development of experimental MS
- Neurological aspects of medical use of CBD
- Sativex for the management of multiple sclerosis symptoms
- CBD provides long-lasting protection against the deleterious effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis: A role for A2A receptors
- Sativex long-term use: An open-label trial in patients with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis
- Meta-analysis of cannabis based treatments for neuropathic and multiple sclerosis-related pain
- Sativex: Clinical efficacy and tolerability in the treatment of symptoms of multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain