Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system that disrupts the flow of information in the brain. Cannabinoids, a chemical compound in cannabis, have been scientifically shown to slow, and in some cases reverse, the progression of MS.
Anyone with experience fighting for a patient’s safe access to cannabis as medicine is familiar with two common and frustrating occurrences. The first issue is that scientists don’t have access to cannabis for conducting research based testing. Secondly, the few tests that do exist are ignored by most major legislators and governing bodies.
When it comes to studies regarding using cannabis to decelerate the process of MS using cannabis, there are a few. Let’s focus just on what has been shown in scientific studies specifically involving cannabinoids and multiple sclerosis.
In 2002 Professor Roger Pertwee studied how cannabinoids would suppress symptoms of multiple sclerosis and spinal injury. Among these symptoms is spasticity and pain. Anecdotal articles and questionares began to show a correlation between reduced symptoms and cannabis treatment. There are also a small amount of patient trials available for review.
Scientifically, these studies have shown Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol and nabilone to provide relief from tremor, pain, spasticity, and nocturia. Labs have used mice with chronic relapsing experimental allergic encephalomyelitis to find that tremors and spasticity were mediated by both CB1 and CB2 receptors. The studies showed that the mice with spasticity had higher levels of endocannabinoids. From here 8 cannabis trials with patients with multiple sclerosis and one patient with spinal cord injury were born. Pertwee concluded his findings with a cry for more research regarding multiple sclerosis and cannabinoids.
A later paper, published in 2011 by John Peter Zajicek and VI Apostu, addressed that patients with multiple sclerosis have been using cannabis extracts to treat their symptoms. The increasing evidence provided by patient testimonials inspired these professors to publish their findings. Mounting evidence has shown that patients treating their MS with cannabinoids found relief from muscle spasms and stiffness, neuropathic pain, sleep and bladder disturbance. There was no evidence listed in this paper, however, that cannabinoids have any effect on tremor or nystagmus.
Between these two studies and all that have occurred across the globe not one trial has shown any negative side effects from utilizing cannabis as alternative treatment. In fact, further trials are now underway to understand the connection between the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids and MS. These studies will also look into remyelination and neuroprotection related to cannabinoids.
What is suggested by this science is that cannabis flowers, edibles and extracts can play a positive role in the lives of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Essentially, we’ve learned from this research that cannabinoids can help to reduce progression of MS as well as reduce disability. There are also indications of symptom amelioration where indications have been established.
Presenting these studies side by side will hopefully highlight the immense benefits that cannabis can have on an MS patient. Similarly, we are hoping that the realization that science backs the idea of cannabis as medicine could normalize the otherwise stigmatized plant.