Medical Marijuana May Ease Symptoms Associated With Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine published a study on May 14, 2012 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal which indicates smoking marijuana has the ability to relieve muscle tightness, pain, and spasticity (contractions) associated with the unpredictable and often disabling disease known as multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom of UCSD’s School of Medicine’s neuroscience department was quoted by CBC News having said:

“We saw a beneficial effect of smoked cannabis on treatment-resistant spasticity and pain associated with multiple sclerosis among our participants. Although generally well-tolerated by our participants, smoking cannabis was accompanied by acute cognitive effects.”

The study involved thirty adult MS patients, 51-years-old on average, who suffered from spasticity, unusual stiffness which makes it difficult to control muscles, as a result of their affliction. Patients participating in the controlled trial had not responded well to pharmaceuticals used in their multiple sclerosis treatment. Researchers were curious whether or not the inhalation of cannabis would prove effective where pharmaceuticals had not.

Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). While symptoms vary based on the location and severity of attacks, episodes can linger for days, weeks, or even months. Relapse is common and the disease sometimes worsens without periods of remission. As a result of the disease, nerves in the brain as well as the spinal cord may be damaged.

Multiple sclerosis symptoms include, but are certainly not limited to, the following: Loss of balance, problems walking, problems coordinate small movements, weakness in one or multiple limbs, constipation, double vision, painful muscle spasms, facial pain, vision loss, uncontrollable rapid eye movements, strong urge to urinate, dizziness, depression, hearing loss, fatigue, trouble chewing and swallowing food, and paralysis.

In the controlled trial, MS patients were asked to smoke, under supervision, either a marijuana cigarette (slang: “Joint”) or a placebo cigarette for three days. Participants averaged four puffs for every cigarette. Eleven days later, participants repeated the process with the other substance.

Rather than relying on the patients to report the effects smoking cannabis had on their multiple sclerosis symptoms, health professionals rated each individual patient’s spasticity using a standardized scale with which muscle tone in the elbows, knees, and hips were measured.

Compared to the placebo group, patients in the study smoking marijuana cigarettes had roughly 30% less spasticity, as they went from 2.74 points from a baseline score of 9.3 on the Ashworth scale.

While some patients found that they were dizzy, nauseous, or even “too high,” the marijuana seemed well tolerated for the most part as participants reported 50% less pain.