Marijuana Component Has Mixed Effect on Multiple Sclerosis

Marijuana
Advertisement

A marijuana component called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has demonstrated a mixed effect on multiple sclerosis (MS), according to the authors of the CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) study. The findings suggest marijuana may have a place in managing MS.

Marijuana and MS studies

At least two studies have explored the use of marijuana in MS in recent times, but let's look at CUPID first. The purpose of the eight-year study, performed by experts from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth University, was to determine whether THC would slow progression of MS based on two outcomes: disability and patient-reported impact.

Nearly 500 people with multiple sclerosis from around the United Kingdom participated in the study, in which the individuals were randomly assigned to take either THC capsules or placebo capsules for three years. The patients were followed to identify whether their MS changed over time.

The researchers discovered the following:

  • THC did not have an effect on progression of MS regarding either disability or patient-reported effect
  • A small group of participants did demonstrate evidence of benefit from treatment, but further research is needed to better define it
  • MS progressed more slowly than expected in treated patients
  • The CUPID study will give investigators important information for use in future large-scale clinical trials concerning MS

According to John Zajicek, professor of Clinical Neuroscience at PCMD, "current treatments for MS are limited, either being targeted at the immune system in the early stages of the disease or aimed at easing specific symptoms such as muscle spasms, fatigue or bladder problems." With that in mind, here's a brief look at another new study on MS.

Smoking marijuana and MS
This clinical study was conducted at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and involved patients with multiple sclerosis who smoked marijuana. Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom, who led the study, reported in a May 14, 2012 press release from UCSD Health Systems that "We found that smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing symptoms and pain in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity, or excessive muscle contractions."

Thirty patients participated in the study. During the first arm of the study, half of the patients smoked marijuana daily for three days while the other half smoked a placebo. Eleven days later, the two groups switched, so all 30 patients eventually smoked marijuana.

Marijuana use was associated with up to a 50 percent reduction in pain and improved range of motion. On the down side, the patients also experienced some short-term problem with attention, concentration, and fatigue.

Advertisement

Multiple sclerosis affects about 400,000 people in the United States and approximately 2.1 million around the world. This autoimmune disease affects women 2 to 3 times more than men, and it can strike at any age, although it typically first appears between 20 and 50.

Marijuana's role in MS
It should be noted there is already a marijuana-based drug (THC and cannabidiol are the components) on the market for MS. Called Sativex, it is an oromucosal spray used to reduce spasticity. Sativex is not yet available in the United States, although the UK-based firm that makes the drug had applied for FDA approval. The drug has approval in eight European countries, Canada, and New Zealand.

Regarding the PCMD study, Zajicek noted that "researchers around the world are desperately searching for treatments that may be 'neuroprotective.' Laboratory experiments have suggested that certain cannabis derivatives may be neuroprotective."

Research has clearly shown that that marijuana, in some form, can have a positive impact on people who have multiple sclerosis, which suggests further research is needed into the benefits of marijuana and its components in the battle against MS.

SOURCES:

Corey-Bloom J et al. Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2012 May 14

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Share this content.

If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.
Advertisement

Comments

The subjects took THC capsules in the first study. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis, but the pills don't contain the CBN and CBD properties that the plant has. Those are what help the MS patients, as shown in the 2nd study where they SMOKED it instead. The Pharma industry keeps trying to manufacture and sell something that grows naturally here on our planet.
Yes, you are right, and the pharmaceutical companies will continue this practice as long as they can make a profit from it.
Does anyone know how I can help change this corruption? I would put my all into this, I used to smoke for recreation but quit to get a good job and focus on family. later in life, I was diagnosed with a number of different mental illnesses after becoming extremely concerned about my lack of motivation to do anything and constantly being depressed...I was so bad that I lost my job. The doctors first prescribed me Seroquil, which helped me be productive in life and hold a normal schedule. But I was so emotionally detached from life it made my depression worse. I quit taking the drug after only two months of the zombie like state and the withdraw that occurred had me in a severely depressed state. At the peak of my depression it was debilitating, cleaning the house or getting a shower was a task that would take extreme mental preparation to achieve the motivation needed to get off the couch or out of bed. I rarely cooked or ate. I found myself in a small enclosed room with enough helium to purge the air from it and literally drown myself in the gas. I actually thought it was funny, The idea that I could record my suicide note on my phone in a high pitched goodbye to my loved ones who I had pushed out of my home and life. Or that I could end up on 1000 ways to die. I have a 12 year old daughter and this IS NOT funny! She means the world to me and I have met a handful of women who lost their fathers at that exact age and thoughts of suicide have NEVER entered my mind before that. I would never put her in their shoes voluntarily. This grave side effect and the doctors willingness to prescribe it so carelessly destroyed my faith in modern medicine and pharmaceuticals. I turned to a natural substance unaltered by drug companies and reported by individuals to positively manage their depression, marijuana. Being a former recreational user I was well acquainted with the side effects of this plant, short term lack of focus due to daydreaming, euphoric feelings, increased appetite, slight ADD like tendencies, and compared to the severe and adverse side effects of the common depression and bipolar pills on the market, I was willing to accept the negligible effects of marijuana. I asked my MI based doctor for her opinion, she did not think it was a viable replacement, supposedly being a depressant she warned it would worsen my condition. She also warned of it's "harmful" and "addictive" properties. Again, I was a former user who smoked regularly for five years of my youth, slowing in my college years and quitting cold turkey the day my daughter was born and going ten years without a craving in my body or mind, so I figured she was either uneducated on the substance or just refused to acknowledge it's potential benefit in favor of supporting the drug companies who had their name on EVERY piece of equipment in her lab. Medicine is meant to do one of two things, or both...manage symptoms of an illness, or cure it. Marijuana does not cure my illness, it does an extremely effective job of managing it however. I was more productive and had no problem holding a schedule. I performed everyday task that before were once not possible. I showered daily and cleaned more often. I socialized more, I worked on my hobbies more and studied my interest more intently. Though still jobless because my degrees didn't mean a thing now that I couldn't pass a drug screen...I didn't sit around and cry anymore, I was more attentive to my daughter as a parent...I would have real conversations with her, talk about her problems, was honest and forthright about mine, and spent much more time with her. She was seeing a different father, one less worried about the problems of the world, which had so often left me deaf to her development as a human being, and her blind to her role among those who I treasure in this world most. I was normal again. I looked forward to kicking back at the end of the day and relieving the stress from a busy day, and the added perk of back pain relief from an old work injury I had learned to live with...now nonexistent. Medicine is either supposed to manage an illness or cure it. Managing symptoms are measured by the patients perception of relief to the symptoms and I as a human being should have the right to say that this medicine is what I choose to use to manage my symptoms. I know three MS patients personally who have seen incredible relief of the most severe symptom of MS...the pain. One of them is lucky enough to live somewhere it is a legal medication, help me help the other two, myself, and every human who chooses this natural medicine over big drug companies "symptom swap" solutions. It is atrocious that they would fight to keep this plant illegal so that they can extort it's benefits for their own profit by chemically altering and watering down the medicine that any patient can freely grow. The sad fact that people are going to jail for this right now as we speak and people's lives are being ruined only increases my depression ten fold. Taken naturally as it grows it has so many benefits already and we can never fully understand this substance until we put aside our fears and plunge into experiments, studies, and research. While this research is going on in many states today, others, including mine, continue to discriminate, persecute, and prosecute those who express their freedom to choose their medicine. I have recently stopped use of this substance to attempt to obtain gainful employment, My depression worsens by the day and I have considered taking my prescribed alternative "symptom swap" pill. Yet I look forward to the day I can take a medicine I know is safe, freely available, but must wait till I can do so without fear of what other would do. Give me freedom from this fear and help me give it to others.
you need the real thing smoked vaporized or eatables
Yes, as the UCSD study I mention in the article demonstrated, smoking marijuana provided significant pain relief and improved range of motion for MS patients.
I have personally witnessed an MS sufferer have an attack that left her curled up in a ball sobbing in pain. She smoked some cannabis and was up walking around almost immediately. She said the pain was still there but manageable. Cannabis prohibition has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with money, control, markets, fear, corruption, and politics.