Multiple Sclerosis Treatment With Marijuana

Can MS be treated with Marijuana?


Clinical data reported in 2006 from an extended open-label study of 167 multiple sclerosis patients found that use of whole plant cannabinoid extracts relieved symptoms of pain, spasticity and bladder incontinence for an extended period of treatment (mean duration of study participants was 434 days) without requiring subjects to increase their dose.[19] Results from a separate two-year open label extension trial in 2007 also reported that the administration of cannabis extracts was associated with long-term reductions in neuropathic pain in select MS patients. On average, patients in the study required fewer daily doses of the drug and reported lower median pain scores the longer they took it.[20] These results would be unlikely in patients suffering from a progressive disease like MS unless the cannabinoid therapy was halting its progression, investigators have suggested.

In recent years, health regulators in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have approved the prescription use of plant cannabis extracts to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Regulatory approval in the European Union and in the United States[21] remains pending.

Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is an approved Category 1 Health Canada MMAR Condition

Medical Marijuana is NOT for everyone and is often a last resort for people that have tried a variety of the pharmaceuticals below with little relief or too many side effects. Strong anecdotal evidence exists for the support of medical marijuana in treating MS symptoms but scientific research has been hampered by government legislation. We strongly suggest you discuss the potential benefit of medical marijuana with your doctor or specialist.

Condition Description
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a painful, debilitating disorder of the central nervous system. MS is unpredictable, affecting vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. [1] There is no cure for MS. Symptoms vary considerably from person to person; however, one frequently noted symptom is spasticity, which causes pain, spasms, and loss of function. MS is an autoimmune disease, the exacerbations experienced with MS appear to be caused by abnormal immune activity that causes inflammation and the destruction of myelin (the protective covering of nerve fibers) in the brain or spinal cord.[2]

Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Drugs commonly prescribed for muscle spasticity and tremor include Klonopin, Dantrium, Baclofen (Medtronic), Zanaflex, Klonopin (Clonazepam) and Valium (diazepam). These medications come with a list of side effects ranging from feeling lightheaded or drowsy, to slurred speech, blurred vision, changes in sexual drive and performance, gastrointestinal changes, muscle spasms and a fast or pounding heartbeat.[3]

Benefits of Marijuana
Some benefits of medical marijuana that many MS patients have reported include improved:

•Muscle spasms
•Bladder control
MS Patients have reported that smoking medical marijuana reduces symptoms such as muscle stiffness and tremors, and allows for greater mobility[4] Many studies of the pharmacology of marijuana have identified effects on motor systems of the central nervous system that have the potential of affecting tremor and spasticity. Moreover, marijuana has demonstrated effects on immune function that also may have the potential of reducing the autoimmune attack that is thought to be the underlying pathogenic process in MS.[3]

Cannabinoid Research
Cannabinoids are chemicals that are found naturally in Marijuana. Researchers believe that these naturally found cannabinoids could create immune suppression. Much like steroids, but with fewer side effects, cannabinoids can “switch off” a portion of the immune response and bring down inflammation and hyperactivity of immune cells, possibly preventing or slowing some of the damage caused to the myelin by immune cells. The cannabinoids do this by interacting with the receptors on specific immune cells.[5]

Sativex is a cannabis-based pharmaceutical product developed by GW Pharmaceuticals in 2005 for treating symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. It is composed mainly of two cannabanoids naturally found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). It comes in the form of a mouth spray. It has been approved as adjunctive treatment for neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. [6] It has also been shown to help reduce spasticity, muscle spasms and sleep disturbances in MS patients. [7][8]

Recommended Resources
Please take a look at these interesting articles and books for further information on MS and the benefits of medical marijuana.

[19]Wade et al. 2006. Long-term use of a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of spasticity and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis 12: 639-645.

[20] Rog et al. 2007. Oromucosal delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol for neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis: an uncontrolled, open-label, 2-year extension trial. Clinical Therapeutics 29: 2068-2079.

[21] William McGuinness. “Marijuana mouth spray Sativex may hit shelves by 2013.” CBS News, January 26, 2012.

•Marijuana Chemical May Slow Multiple Sclerosis May 2009
•Cannabis truly helps multiple sclerosis sufferers September 2004
•Cannabinoids and Multiple Sclerosis August 2002
•Cannabis ‘helps MS sufferers’ March 2000
•Medical Marijuana: Reducing Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Which Types Of Alternative Therapies Are Recommended for MS?

Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines that range from diet and exercise to mental conditioning and lifestyle changes. Here we list acupuncture, yoga, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, and massage.

Complementary therapies are alternative therapies used in addition to traditional treatments.

Maintain A Positive Attitude. Having a positive outlook cannot cure MS, but it can reduce your stress and help you feel better.
Exercise. Exercises, such as tai chi and yoga can lower your stress, help you to be more relaxed, and increase your energy, balance, and flexibility. As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before getting started. It is important that you never exercise to the point of fatigue, as this may worsen your symptoms. Likewise, avoid getting overheated and try to exercise in the early morning on hot days.
What Are Some Other Alternative or Complementary Therapy Options for MS?
Gentle Massage Therapy. Many people with MS receive regular massage therapy to help relax and reduce stress and depression, which could trigger a relapse. There is no evidence that massage changes the course of the disease. It is usually safe for people with MS to receive a massage, but if you have bone-thinning osteoporosis (usually as a result of your treatments) massage may be dangerous. Talk to your doctor first.

Be Sure Your Diet Is Healthy. It is important for people with MS to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet. Ask your doctor what diet is right for you It is important for people with MS to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet to keep them as healthy as possible. Discuss any dietary concerns you may have with your doctor.

Marijuana Treatment Option. The use of marijuana to treat any illness remains highly controversial. Some people with MS claim that smoking marijuana helps relieve spasticity and other MS-related symptoms. However, there is little evidence to date that marijuana really works. Research is ongoing to answer this important question. Until more is known, most doctors do not recommend the use of marijuana to treat MS.


The Four Types of MS

Which types of MS and MS  symptoms can be controlled with Marijuana to the point to where people can live in comfort?  We need an open mind and we need Doctors willing to admit that Marijuana can work for some MS patients in controlling the terrible symptoms they endure on a daily basis.

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS). This is the most common form of multiple sclerosis. About 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS. People with RRMS have temporary periods called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations, when new symptoms appear
  • Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS). In SPMS, symptoms worsen more steadily over time, with or without the occurrence of relapses and remissions. Most people who are diagnosed with RRMS will transition to SPMS at some point
  • Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS). This type of MS is not very common, occurring in about 10% of people with MS. PPMS is characterized by slowly worsening symptoms from the beginning, with no relapses or remissions
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS). A rare form of MS (5%), PRMS is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery

MS Treatment Options

There are various MS treatment options available today that have been shown to decrease the frequency of relapses and to delay disease progression. Some treatments use an injection…either under the skin or into the muscle, while others are given intravenously or orally.

  • Beta interferons are used for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Certain beta interferon products also may be used for a first clinical episode with MRI findings consistent with MS
  • Glatiramer acetate is used for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. It is also used for patients who have experienced a first clinical episode and have MRI findings consistent with MS
  • Fingolimod is indicated for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS to reduce the frequency of clinical exacerbations and to delay the accumulation of physical disability
  • Teriflunomide is used for the treatment of patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis
  • Mitoxantrone is a chemotherapeutic agent for the treatment of worsening relapsing-remitting MS, progressive-relapsing MS or secondary-progressive MS used to reduce neurologic disability and/or the frequency of clinical exacerbations
  • Natalizumab is reserved for patients with rapidly progressing MS or with high disease activity despite the use of interferon or glatiramer acetate