Saturday, December 2, 2017

Medical Cannabis Benefits: Treating Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the sufferer’s own immune system attacks and damages the individual’s brain and spinal cord - the two primary components of the central nervous system. Symptoms of this severely debilitating ailment vary from individual to individual, dependent on how long and how far the disease has progressed but they include: loss of sensitivity or changes in sensitivity throughout various parts of one’s body; significant weakness and or stiffness in the muscles; very pronounced reflexes; muscle spasms; difficulty with moving parts of one’s body; difficulties with balance and motor coordination (ataxia); visual problems; difficulties controlling one’s bladder and bowels; chronic pain and the resulting fatigue. Depression, insomnia, and anxiety typically accompany the symptoms of MS.

The exact cause of MS is currently unknown but it is theorized that genetics, environmental factors, and even infections may all contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Sadly there is no known cure yet, but there are a number of medications and experimental treatments aimed at tackling the symptoms of the ailment.

Using Cannabis to Treat MS

Cannabis is a complex medicinal plant that may actually be used to treat a variety of debilitating symptoms caused by a surprisingly large number of ailments. Its usefulness as a non-lethal medicine (you cannot die from an overdose of cannabis) cannot be overstated and its versatility in terms of how it can be consumed and as to how it can be useful for so many illnesses is something to be excited about. However, it is important to remember that consulting with your primary care physician should be your first priority when considering incorporating cannabis into one’s medical regiment and that cannabis is to be used as an adjunct therapy and not a replacement. It is also your responsibility to communicate with your doctor as to how your use of cannabis has affected your health and of your progress with utilizing medical cannabis.

Much of the focus surrounding cannabis as a possible therapy for MS has been aimed at exploring the usefulness of both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) in treating numerous symptoms of the ailment. In fact, one review by Baker et al., published at the Department of Neuroinflammation in April 2003 states, “Cannabinoids provide a novel therapeutic target, not only for controlling symptoms, but also slowing disease progression through inhibition of neurodegeneration, which is the cause of accumulating irreversible disability.”

Exciting studies in general have shown that cannabis may be quite useful for treating individuals suffering from MS for the following reasons: significantly reducing pain, spasticity, and tremors; helping to manage nausea; helping to deal with incontinence; reducing possible anxiety; combatting depression and the resulting fatigue; and with delaying the onset and progression of the disease.

Research findings suggest that cannabis could slow the neurodegenerative process of multiple sclerosis. Studies have shown that cannabinoids are involved in the regulation of the immune system by way of acting upon the cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids have shown they can modulate the inflammatory reaction and assist in neuroregeneration. In one study, cannabinoids demonstrated neuroprotective effects during an animal model of multiple sclerosis, reducing the damage to myelin caused from inflammation. Another study found that cannabinoids administered to animals with a model of multiple sclerosis reduced neurological disability, improved motor coordination and limited the progression of the disease.

Cannabis can help multiple sclerosis patients manage the symptoms associated with their disease. Cannabis has shown to be effective at reducing pain, muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.

There is some evidence that suggests that cannabis may worsen cognitive problems in multiple sclerosis patients. Multiple sclerosis patients that were regular users of street cannabis have scored significantly worse on cognitive function tests.

Currently, 15 states have approved medical cannabis specifically for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. These states include Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia. In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical cannabis as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.

A number of other states will consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been recommended by a physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).

Several states have approved medical cannabis specifically to treat “chronic pain,” which is a symptom commonly associated with multiple sclerosis. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. The states of Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Vermont allow medical marijuana to treat “severe pain.” The states of Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia have approved cannabis for the treatment of “intractable pain.”

Several states will allow medical cannabis for the treatment of spasms, which can arise in those with multiple sclerosis. These states include: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

Patients whose multiple sclerosis causes seizures can use medical cannabis to treat that specific symptom in several states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania (intractable seizures), Rhode Island, Tennessee (intractable seizures), Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

Cannabinoids were effective at reducing neurological disability and the progression of the disease in mice with an animal form of MS.
Cannabinoids ameliorate disease progression in a model of multiple sclerosis in mice, acting preferentially through CB1 receptor-mediated anti-inflammatory effects.

Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenoids Useful for Treating MS

Although much of the research thus far concerning cannabis as an adjunct therapy to MS has been focused on THC and CBD, it is important to remember that the cannabis plant offers a plethora of therapeutic benefits and contains cannabinoids and terpenoid compounds that are useful for treating some of the other symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

The following chart denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids work synergistically with each other for significant therapeutic benefit. It may be beneficial to seek out strains that contain these cannabinoids and terpenoids.

Americans For Safe Access Condition-based Booklets
These booklets summarize the history of medical cannabis and the recent research used to treat a variety of conditions, including Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Pain, Arthritis, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Movement Disorders, HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to Aging. (About Americans For Safe Access)

Multiple Sclerosis

Many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) - such as spasticity, pain, fatigue, bladder problems and depression - respond positively to medical cannabis.

"How to Qualify for Medical Cannabis in New Mexico"


Understanding medical cannabis.Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.

Meta-analysis of cannabis based treatments for neuropathic and multiple sclerosis-related pain.Iskedjian, Michael, et al.

Current Medical Research and Opinion, 2007, 23(1): 17-24.

Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.Collin, C., et al. European Journal of Neurology, 2007 Mar, 14(3): 290-296.

Cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis (CAMS) study: safety and efficacy data for 12 months follow up.Zajicek, J. P., et al.

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2005, 76: 1664-1669.

Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosis.Rog, David J., et al.

Neurology, 2005 Sep 27, 65(6): 812-819.