Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a neurological disease that directly affects the brain and spinal cord of the human body. There has been a growing interest in the medical field, as well as the many patients who suffer from MS, to use medical marijuana in treating the many symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. In this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at the use of medical marijuana, cannabis, and the cannabinoid compounds found in the plant and understand its potential application in treating Multiple Sclerosis. If you suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, and are interested in speaking with a doctor regarding medical marijuana as a form of MS treatment, you can book a consultation here.
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
According to the Mayo Clinic, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves attached to your eyes. MS patients have suffered from a number of issues which include vision, physical balance, control of their muscles, and a number of other basic body functions. The symptoms and effects of MS on patients vary on a person-by-person basis, and the severity of symptoms can range from not requiring treatment at all to needing full-time assistance with basic, everyday tasks.
Over 2.5 million people around the world suffer from multiple sclerosis, and are typically affected by its complications over the course of their entire lives.
MS is caused by a patient’s immune system attacking a fatty material called myelin which is the protective sheath around nerve fibers. When this shell is removed, nerves become permanently damaged and scar tissue forms that hampers your brain’s ability to send signals through the body correctly. Nerves continuously do not work or operate as they should, and a number of neurological complications occur.
There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, however there are a number of treatments that are being developed to help patients recover quickly from attacks and also help stymie the progression of the disease.
What are the Conditions and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis symptoms range from mild to severe in patients. Multiple sclerosis varies to wide degrees from person to person with regards to the extent it affects or hampers their motor functions and capabilities, particularly since the disease attacks nerves so the nature of someone’s affliction can vary based on the nerves that are damaged. The most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis are associated with motor functions or movement, and have been known to include:
Numbness or weakness in limb(s) that occur or progress over time, particularly on one side of the body that may spread to other parts
Electric-shock sensations within certain body parts or areas of the body such as the neck, particularly when performing an action or movement (such as bending the neck forward)
Tremors in limbs, a lack of coordination when moving limbs, and an unsteady gait
Partial or complete loss of sight and vision either in one eye or both eyes, typically progressing in one eye at a time
Pain or discomfort in moving your eye or eyes
Extended amount of time with ‘double vision’
Other symptoms include:
Fatigue, particularly in activities that would otherwise be easy or normal
Numbness and tingling of the face, body, or extremities
Spasticity and stiffness in limbs, particularly in the legs
Dizziness and vertigo
Sexual problems, particularly with fatigue and spasticity
Bowel problems such as constipation or loss of control of the bowels
Itching that can turn into mild pain
Cognitive changes such as the ability to process information quickly, learn and retain new information, organize, problem-solve, focus attention, and perceive your environment
Less common symptoms include:
Speech problems such as dysarthria and dysphonia (loss of volume)
Swallowing problems (dysphagia)
Hearing loss (in more rare cases)
Respiratory or breathing problems
Tremors or uncontrolled shaking
What are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis that Medical Marijuana Can Treat
Multiple sclerosis is often treated by addressing specific symptoms or flare-ups of symptoms which has in the past, included but not limited to the application of steroids, courses of physiotherapy, the use of antidepressants, and also the use of muscle relaxants to address the motor confusion of neural pathways.
The problem is that the use of these treatments often lead to health complications and undesired side effects such as osteoporosis, increased weight gain, and diabetes. What’s worse is the use of drugs that treat the more common symptoms such as muscle relaxants and anti depressants often come with other side effects such as nausea, weakness, diarrhea, and dizziness. The complications of these side effects make the process of treating multiple sclerosis that much more difficult for patients.
Medical Marijuana & Treating Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease, but it turns out that cannabis contains a number of chemicals that can help combat the negative ways the disease would affect your neurological system.
Cannabinoids have shown to help ease stiffness and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, as well as ease sleeping issues that patients with MS suffer.
THC & CBD have been proven to be effective at treating pain associated with multiple sclerosis, as well as assisting with sleep issues that are also a cause of the pain experienced by MS patients.
Urinary Frequency & Bladder Symptoms
A cannabis oral spray has been shown to be effective at treating symptoms of spasticity, pain, and urinary frequency.
What have the Studies on Marijuana and Multiple Sclerosis Proven?
Medical marijuana has become a more popular form of treatment, particularly due to the results of a specific drug from a Britain-based drug company, GW Pharmaceuticals, called Sativex - a nabiximols drug that is one of the most popular cannabis-derived treatments for addressing multiple sclerosis. The drug itself is an oromucosal spray with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, and includes a myriad of other cannabinoids and non-cannabinoid ingredients specifically designed to address the muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. This drug has received regulatory approval and clearance for use in treatment in over 25 countries that include Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The development of Sativex incorporated the use of numerous clinical trials where the effectiveness of the drug against symptoms with multiple sclerosis was heavily studied, specifically on its ability to help with spasticity, bladder control, and neuropathic pain. The study found that in over 360 patients with various degrees of neurological conditions that included multiple sclerosis, this form of medical cannabis significantly reduced neuropathic pain, spasticity, muscle spasms, and sleep disturbances.
In fact, in an exhaustive study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it was concluded that when taking into account the 10,000 scientific studies where marijiuana was applied to a range of health conditions to determine effectiveness in treating symptoms, there were three applications that showed the most significant evidence in being an effective form of treatment. Those three areas were: reducing chemotherapy side effects, treating chronic pain, and treating multiple sclerosis spasticity.
According to the report, “ For adults with multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms there was substantial evidence that short-term use of certain ‘oral cannabinoids’ - man-made, cannabinoid-based medications that are orally ingested - improved their reported symptoms.”
A recent 2018 systematic review of medical reviews specifically noted that cannabinoids have had some of the best effects for patients suffering from pain or spasticity of multiple sclerosis. A 2019 comprehensive review that analyzed advances in chronic pain management with multiple sclerosis found that medicinal marijuana as a treatment in conjunction with physical therapy and neuromodulation offered the most promising results for patients suffering from MS.
Without further study and research into the application of cannabinoids to multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases, the potential benefit of cannabis still remains somewhat unclear. That being said, there is a multitude of anecdotal evidence and testimonies to the effectiveness of medical cannabis for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
A recent article on Healthline from a mother (Meg Lewellyn) diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007 dove into her journey with battling the symptoms of the disease, and the worsening conditions she experienced when she found many of the medicines she used falling short.
In her article, Mrs. Lewellyn described her discovery of medical marijuana as a treatment for her nausea, spasticity, and overall chronic pain she experienced with multiple sclerosis. She details how it compared to other drugs, saying, “Unlike many of the prescribed medicines I have tried in the past, I haven’t run across any side effects. I’ve experienced dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, dry eyes, dry mouth, drowsiness, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, and even decreased sex drive as I searched for relief. But with the cannabis, the only side effects I’ve noticed are smiling and laughing more than ever (oh, and the return of my sex drive, too!).”
If you suffer from multiple sclerosis, we encourage you to speak with your primary care physician or doctor to see if medical cannabis can be a viable pathway of treatment for your disease or the symptoms you experience. If you would like a consultation with Dr. Kramer, multiple sclerosis is a qualifying condition for the application of medical marijuana and obtaining a license in the state of New York. You can purchase a license consultation if you’re interested in learning more about your options.
Dr. Kramer is of the strong opinion that further research into the medical applications of cannabis will yield new methods of treatment and support for common, chronic illnesses. Patients shouldn’t have to suffer from symptoms that can be ameliorated or solved with the use of medical marijuana. We’ve reached a new period in healthcare where medical cannabis and medical marijuana is continuously being used in new, innovative ways - the more studies that can effectively measure and gauge potential uses of medical marijuana, the more options we’ll have as a society for healing and finding filling in the many gaps in our healthcare. Thank you for reading our blog, and for more information regarding medical marijuana or medical cannabis you can access the resources in the links below.
If you are interested in obtaining a medical marijuana card with Dr. Kramer, you can use this link to begin the process of obtaining one.