Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the central nervous system. This causes the myelin sheaths in the body to become extremely inflamed. Myelin sheaths enclose the nerves in the brain and the spinal column. When the myelin sheaths have become too inflamed, they may become irreparably damaged. This causes a whole lot of neurological problems including loss of motor control, muscle spasms and muscle weakness, fatigue, dizziness, vision problems, slurred speech and mood instability. 50 to 70 percent of people with MS experience symptoms of debilitating pain.
Recognizing Multiple Sclerosis
MS can lead to depression and a variety of symptoms of emotional dysfunction in approximately 50 percent of those with the illness. This can occur due to damage done to the nerves that regulate mood. It may also be a side effect from the heavy prescription drugs. A range of bladder and gastrointestinal problems are also a symptom of MS, including abdominal pain, constipation, bladder and fecal incontinence. Impaired coordination may be added to the rest of these symptoms with a chance that the patient may eventually lose the ability to walk. The symptoms of MS are caused by inflammation. When immune cells are active in MS patients, they release cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory proteins. The cytokines cause the neurological inflammation that leads to the painful symptoms of MS.
Cannabis Research Into MS Treatments
Clinical and anecdotal cannabis research indicates that the cannabinoids in marijuana have the ability to reduce many of the symptoms associated with MS, including its ability to prevent and reduce muscle spasms, reduce pain in the body, ease gastrointestinal issues and get rid of depression. Cannabis research done as a randomized clinical study by researchers at the University of California in San Diego in 2008 reported that “smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and provided some benefit beyond currently prescribed treatment.”
Another study that was reported in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association in 2012, said “Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity.” Two open label studies done in 2006 and 2007 indicate that cannabinoids reduce neuropathic pain, muscle spasticity and bladder incontinence in patients and continued to do this even without increasing doses. In fact the general symptoms began to subside with cannabinoid treatment, to the point where doses could be lowered over time.
The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Marijuana
The most important facet to be aware of when contemplating cannabis research and the effects of marijuana on patients with MS, is to realize that marijuana is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. It has been used as an anti-inflammatory for thousands of years. Which is why there are also studies that indicate that it can actually stop the progression of MS along with help to manage the symptoms. In the 2003 issue of Brain, researchers at the University College of London’s Institute of Neurology wrote that they found that cannabinoids gave “significant neuroprotection” stating that “The results of this study are important because they suggest that in addition to symptom management, … cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other disease.” Spanish researchers got the same results when they tested cannabinoids on mice in 2012.
Marijuana is now prescribed to MS patients in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.