Recent research suggests that medical cannabis may be a new treatment to combat this progressive and challenging disease.
Although the aetiology and pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis remain unclear, it has been established that the cause is likely to be multifactorial and includes "genetic predisposition, along with environmental factors such as exposure to infectious agents, vitamin deficiencies, and smoking."
Recent evidence suggests that cannabinoid treatment may be effective in treating spasticity and pain associated with MS. This article will explore the current clinical landscape in treating multiple sclerosis with medical cannabis, reviewing the evidence currently available.
As cannabis use quickly becomes more prevalent around the world, it will be imperative to conduct more research and educate the public on the intended use of this drug in the treatment of the disease.
Two recent high-quality systemic reviews found that some of the strongest evidence supporting the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids for treating neurological disorders comes from treating multiple sclerosis symptoms with cannabis.
Studies show that between 20 and 60% of patients with multiple sclerosis are using cannabis. Furthermore, 50-90% would consider using it if it was more easily accessible and/or legal. As state-level legalization spreads across the United States, that number is expected to increase dramatically.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society also supports the medicinal use of cannabis in patients with intractable MS who are in states where the plant is legal.
The cannabis plant is incredibly diverse and contains different permutations of many biologically active compounds. This includes over 100 different cannabinoids and many more terpenoids that work together to produce their effects. Two compounds that have received a lot of attention and have been extensively investigated are THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC is known to produce the psychoactive effects of cannabis, in addition to being a "muscle relaxant, antiemetic and appetite stimulant". These effects can be very beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis.
Another powerful therapeutic cannabinoid is CBD due to its medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiemetic properties. In fact, there is more evidence to suggest that CBD may be a new treatment to help MS patients regain mobility.
CBD can help improve mobility in patients with multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a "demyelinating" disease that erodes the protective layer around the body's neurons. This leads to fatigue, chronic pain, wasting muscle, spasticity, and depression, which often limit physical activity and mobility in patients.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to be effective in alleviating these symptoms, and indirect evidence shows that this helped patients regain their mobility.
Oral Cannabis Extract May Help Urinary Symptoms in Multiple Sclerosis Patients
The results of a 2014 systemic review suggest that oral cannabis extract may be useful in treating bladder dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Another study compared oral cannabis extract with a placebo for ten weeks in patients with multiple sclerosis, and although the results were not statistically significant, the data suggest that the extract may be useful in mitigating these symptoms.
It is estimated that MS currently affects 2.3 million people worldwide. When it comes to cannabis, clinical evidence strongly suggests that MS is a particular condition that may benefit from cannabinoid therapy. However, there is a great need for further research in this field of study to elucidate better the physiological and pharmacological mechanisms involved in treating MS with cannabis.
Finally, it is equally important that better public education campaigns help inform multiple sclerosis patients about their treatment options and how medical marijuana can help them achieve a better quality of life.