Medical Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis

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Medical cannabis has had overwhelming success in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis for patients all over the world. Multiple Sclerosis, known colloquially as MS, is a very debilitating, painful, and in most cases incapacitating neurodegenerative disease. It affects the spinal cord, optic nerve, brain, and the body’s immune system. Currently, up to 400,000 people in the United States and 1.2 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from this exhausting and disabling disease (Dilokthornsakul, et al.,2016), which can cause patients to slowly lose their capability to move and control their limbs and muscles. Over a period of time, patients suffering from MS can become permanently disabled and, in some cases, MS can lead to death. Regrettably, there is currently no known cure for MS. Conventional treatments for Multiple Sclerosis involve a protocol of harsh pharmaceuticals that address the symptoms, while exposing the patient to harmful side effects and risk to the immune system (Grebenciucova and Pruitt, 2017). Multiple studies are showing that medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, has a stunning ability to treat the MS symptoms such as pain, muscle stiffness and spasms, depression, digestion, and sleep without the destructive side effects of pharmaceuticals. 

One of the most common and incapacitating symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis is pain. The pain associated with MS is caused directly by the inflammation of neural tissue or the spasmodic episodes putting excess pressure on the body’s muscular and skeletal system. Fortunately, medical cannabis is well known to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain. In a 2005 clinical trial, researchers discovered that cannabis medication was superior to a placebo and stated, “Cannabis-based medicine is effective in reducing pain and sleep disturbance in patients with multiple sclerosis related central neuropathic pain and is mostly well tolerated” (Rog, et al.,2005).

Muscle spasms – involuntary contractions of a muscle or a group of muscles – are a common feature of Multiple Sclerosis and affect the majority of patients. Muscle spasticity is when the muscle or muscle groups are constantly contracted which leads to pain, stiffness, and a feeling of tightness commonly known as an uncomfortable “hug” that doesn’t let up. In 2005, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study found that 75% patients enrolled in the study showed improvements in mobility and reduced muscle spasms (Vaney, et al., 2005). Another study published in 2009 states that researchers, “found evidence that combined THC and CBD extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms.” (Lakhan and Rowland, 2009). The ability of cannabis to control muscle spasms and tightness is due to its ability to reduce the inflammation of the neurons in the brain and the spine.

Depression in patients with MS can be caused when the nerves regulating mood become inflamed or damaged and can also often be a side effect of pharmaceutical medications. In addition to major depression or depressive episodes, Multiple sclerosis is linked to a variety of mood disorders and other emotional imbalances and dysfunction. Scientific research is showing that the body’s own endocannabinoid system plays an important part in regulating mood. Endocannabinoids naturally found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, can elevate the CB-1 receptor, causing an elevation in mood. Researchers at Buffalo University found that when chronically stressed, there is a lower production of endocannabinoids (Haj-Dahmane, et al., 2014). There is no doubt that the stress associated with this dreadful disease also leads to depression. Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions who studies stress and depression agrees. He and his team have been studying how cannabis can treat depression and in a recent publication stated, “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression” (Wilde, 2015).

Other unpleasant symptoms of MS are digestion and other gastrointestinal issues. The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for housing approximately 80% of the body’s immune system. Interestingly, it also contains cannabinoid receptors. Researchers at the University of Bath determined that cannabinoids, “activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the gut lining, promoting it to heal the inflamed lining of the gastrointestinal tract” (Hergenrather, 2005). Endocannabinoids appear to play a large role in regulation including regulation of stomach acids, motility-the power to move food from the mouth and out as bowel movements, inflammation, satiety, and perception of pain (Storr and Sharkey, 2007). Additionally, symptoms such as depression, fatigue, gut pain, loss of appetite, and sleep disorders were also found to be helped by the marijuana compound known as Cannabidiol, or CBD (Fouad, et al., 2011)

Although there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis, medical cannabis is proving to be a powerful ally to those who suffer from it. Scientific researchers from across the globe are continuously showing the remarkable benefits of how cannabis works synergistically with the body’s own endocannabinoid system in repairing and alleviating the damaged and inflamed tissues associated with MS. In fact, Multiple Sclerosis responds so well to medical cannabis treatment that it is on every state’s list of medical conditions that qualify for legal medical marijuana access. When taken correctly and under the care of a medical cannabis professional, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have been overwhelmingly beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of MS, repairing cellular damage, and allowing the patient to reclaim their quality of life.

Written by: Mara Trivino ©KingHarvest.org

Sources:

1. Dilokthornsakul, Piyameth, et al. “Multiple Sclerosis Prevalence in the United States Commercially Insured Population.” Neurology, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 15 Mar. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4799713/.
2. Grebenciucova, E, and A Pruitt. “Infections in Patients Receiving Multiple Sclerosis Disease-Modifying Therapies.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Sept. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28940162.
3. Rog, David J., et al. “Randomized, Controlled Trial of Cannabis-Based Medicine in Central Pain in Multiple Sclerosis.” Neurology, American Academy of Neurology, 27 Sept. 2005, n.neurology.org/content/65/6/812.short.
4. Vaney, C, et al. “Efficacy, Safety and Tolerability of an Orally Administered Cannabis Extract in the Treatment of Spasticity in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study.” Multiple Sclerosis Journal, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1191/1352458504ms1048oa.
5. Lakhan, Shaheen E, and Marie Rowland. “Whole Plant Cannabis Extracts in the Treatment of Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis: a Systematic Review.” BMC Neurology, BioMed Central, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793241/.
6. Wilde, Cathy. “RIA Neuroscience Study Points to Possible Use of Medical Marijuana for Depression.” University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, 4 Feb. 2015, www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/02/004.html.
7. Haj-Dahmane, Samir, and Roh-Yu Shen. “Chronic Stress Impairs α1-Adrenoceptor-Induced Endocannabinoid-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity in the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 29 Oct. 2014, www.jneurosci.org/content/34/44/14560.short.
8. Hergenrather, Jeff. “Cannabis Alleviates Symptoms Of Crohn’s O’Shaughnessy’s, Oct. 2005, cannabisclinicians.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Cannabis-for-Crohns-Disease.pdf.
9. Fouad, Amr and J. Restat. “Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol against Ischemia/Reperfusion Liver Injury in Rats.” European Journal of Pharmacology, Elsevier, 14 Sept. 2011, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014299911009599.
10. Storr, M A, and K A Sharkey. “The Endocannabinoid System and Gut-Brain Signalling.”Current Opinion in Pharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17904903.