Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the more common medical conditions included in states’ medicinal marijuana programs. The disease remains steeped in mystery as it comes from nowhere to ravage the body’s central nervous system, often resulting in disability.
To date, studies of the disease’s epidemiology only provide us with limited information that lacks any clear specificity. In fact, no single standardized test to diagnose MS exists. More clarification is undoubtedly needed within MS research, but that’s not stopping patients from relieving symptoms with America’s latest alternative treatment: medical marijuana.
Affecting 2.5 million people around the world, sufferers lose the ability to properly use parts of their bodies including mobility, vision and other declining functions. Four types of disease courses have been identified in MS. The most common (85% of those diagnosed) is Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) where the patient goes through periods of time where their MS can be active, inactive, worsening or not worsening. Other types include Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS), Primary progressive MS (PPMS) and Secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
Regardless the type a patient has, it is advised that they treat the first symptom recognized. Treating MS is an ongoing process that could leave a person with an increased heart rate, dizziness, dry mouth and sleep issues. Further signs may include trouble thinking, anxiety and changes in mood. Scientists around the world continue to search for solutions to the disease but so far remain in the dark. With these symptoms, in addition to the potential pain, a growing number of patients are turning to medical marijuana.
Current Solutions Outside of Medical Marijuana
Cannabis or not, there is no cure for MS. According to the Mayo Clinic, MS treatment focuses on speeding recovery times from attacks by the disease and slowing the progression of the symptoms. Patients suffering from nerve inflammation are often given corticosteroids, which may lead to side effects from rising blood pressure to changes in mood. To treat a patient’s plasma, a plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) could be ordered.
Depending on the type of MS a patient has, other procedures and medicines could be prescribed. MS treatments include multiple days of infusions, oral medications and skin or muscle injections. In some cases, patients could find themselves with a slew of pills to consume. Patients have at times reported that the medications they are prescribed isn’t even developed to treat MS specifically. The combination of medicines is often used to offset some of the side effects, like mood swings, which accompany treatment. In that case, a patient could find themselves on an antidepressant in a bid to manage their MS.
The high total of MS medications leads numerous patients to seek alternative medicine as primary or complementary options. They include exercise, yoga, massage and a revised diet. In addition to these suggestions, medical marijuana is now gaining traction with patients and some professionals as well.
How Medical Marijuana Can Help MS Patients
A review from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) resulted in its support of oral extracts to treat muscle pain and spasticity. It also noted moderate and weak evidence for other THC treatments like pills and sprays. While it lacked the current support, additional testing may be required to confirm the study. Some specific guideline information included that:
- Oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) show the ability to reduce patient spasticity and pain, but not MS-related tremors or spasticity measured by physician-administered tests.
- Oral sprays are effective for improving patient-reported spasticity, pain, and urinary frequency. However, bladder incontinence, MS-related tremor or spasticity measured by tests administered by the physician did not appear effective.
- Smoked marijuana studies haven’t produced adequate evidence to determine its safety or effectiveness for treating MS symptoms such as spasticity, pain, balance and cognition.
Despite receiving support in some cases, the AAN’s findings are far from the ringing endorsement some MS sufferers give medical marijuana. Their first-hand accounts are common in chats, support groups and in the media where patients profess the power of medical marijuana.
With each person, the symptoms and outcomes of medical cannabis use will vary. A large number of accounts detail how it has served as an MS treatment for themselves. Reports range from extracts helping with sleep to lessening inflammation through the body and brain to ward off depression and other mood issues.
Overall, cannabis is making the lives of numerous MS patients more functional. Its helped patients protect and restore their body without a cocktail of pills. While each situation produced varying results, many report medical marijuana can help MS patients in a way prescription drugs cannot.
Studies of Note
The science of cannabis has long stalled due to government regulations and is only now beginning to see an uptick in research. That, however, has not been the case entirely for medical marijuana and MS treatments.
Numerous studies delving into multiple aspects of the disease have been studied to indicate the validity of medical marijuana as an MS medication. These studies examined patients’ cognitive functions, muscle stiffness and the most effective ways to consume cannabis for treatment. While some results, like mental cognition, proved that using cannabis leads to mental errors, most resulted in positive findings for medical marijuana.
Today, prominent groups like the National MS Society champion further research to better understand how medical marijuana helps MS patients. At this point, no significant group in the space has supported medical marijuana outright as an MS treatment. However, with mounting evidence, support has swayed over the years. Depending on the next wave of studies, sentiment could become overwhelming one way or another soon enough.
With multiple sclerosis still a mostly mysterious disease, patients and professionals alike scramble for solutions. It remains to be seen if medical marijuana is the silver bullet or complete dud for patients. Most likely, the result will vary from one patient to the next with a slew of variables leading to that outcome. For many, they already know the answer: medical marijuana can help with their MS symptoms.
Is medical marijuana a solution for your MS symptoms? If you live in California, Nevada or New York, we’re ready to help. Learn more about online medical marijuana today.Get Your Card Now