Could medical marijuana and CBD oil be the cure for multiple sclerosis? Probably not, but, they have definitely proven to be quite effective in subduing some of the most troublesome symptoms.
If you’re struggling with MS you may want to consider adding marijuana or CBD oil to your treatment plan. Why?
First, did you know that multiple sclerosis is the second most common reason people seek medical marijuana treatment? In fact, in medical states, roughly 27% of qualifying patients use marijuana to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms.
When it comes to the scientific research on the efficacy of cannabis treatment for multiple sclerosis, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Yet, opinions from experts, patient testimonies, and a few studies suggest that cannabis does improve the quality of life for MS patients.
Take the 2017 NASEM report for instance, which revealed that there was substantial evidence that short-term use of some oral cannabinoids, improved MS-related muscle spasms.
Additionally, THC and CBD, the main active compounds in marijuana, can stimulate certain parts of our nervous system that in turn reduce the intensity of symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.
CBD oil, in particular, is favored in MS treatment due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Also, since CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, patients experience relief minus the ‘high’ after taking a dose. This is great news for MS patients who need to remain clear-headed at their job, but also wish to relieve their bothersome symptoms.
Possibly the biggest authority to voice its support for medical marijuana use in the treatment of multiple sclerosis is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. More than that, they even advocate for legalizing medical cannabis at the federal level.
Let’s take a look at how marijuana compares to other methods of treatment and how effective it is.
- What is multiple sclerosis?
- Multiple sclerosis causes
- Multiple sclerosis symptoms
- Why is medical marijuana helpful in treating MS?
- Side effects of using marijuana for multiple sclerosis
- Best strains for multiple sclerosis
- Multiple sclerosis treatment
- What do the doctors say about cannabis and multiple sclerosis?
- Key takeaways
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that occurs when your body’s defense system begins to work against your nervous system. So, what happens is that your immune system destroys the myelin sheath; a protective coat surrounding your nerves in the spine and brain.
A scathed myelin layer causes nerves to lose some or all their ability to send impulses. The communication between your brain and other parts of your body is then altered due to the damaged nerves.
Unfortunately, MS can be disabling if the damage to the nerves becomes too severe.
There’s no known cure for MS. But, various treatments can still help improve restoration from attacks, change the course of the disease, and manage its symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis causes
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease whose cause is unknown.
Even so, there are several risk factors believed to bring about MS:
- Age: MS can occur at any age but may develop at 20 or 40 years of age.
- Sex: Women are twice as likely as men to have relapsing-remitting MS.
- Genetics: You are more likely to develop MS if there’s a history of MS in your family. For example, your parents or siblings.
- Viruses: The Epstein-Barr virus has links to MS.
- Ethnicity: People of Northern European origin are at a higher risk of developing MS.
- Climate: MS is common in temperate climates like Northern US, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and southeastern Australia
- Vitamin deficiency: A lack of vitamin D may also play a role in developing MS.
- Other autoimmune diseases: such as pernicious anemia, psoriasis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or type 1 diabetes.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms
Patients suffering from MS may experience the following symptoms:
- Chronic pain (tingling or pain in parts of your body)
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs occurring on one side of your body at a time
- Electric-shock sensations that occur with specific neck movements
- Lack of coordination
- Partial or complete vision loss occurring at one eye at a time with painful eye movement
- Prolonged double vision
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Problems with bowel, sexual, or bladder functions
- Spasticity (muscle stiffness)
Multiple sclerosis treatment
- Medications such as chemotherapy drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressive drugs, and steroids are used in the treatment of MS.
But, most of these drugs have severe side aftereffects. For example nausea, muscle weakening, and heart damage among others.
- Therapy in the form of counseling, support groups, acupuncture, and physical therapy may be effective in treating and dealing with MS.
- Self-care such as physical exercise and dieting improves the quality of life in MS patients.
Why is medical marijuana helpful in treating MS?
Aids with muscle stiffness (spasticity and spasms)
Stiff, cramping, and aching muscles are a norm for most people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Spasticity happens when muscles tense and resist stretching which reduces normal fluid movement. As a result, patients experience slurred speech, difficulty in movement, and poor coordination.
Spasms are thought to originate from areas of the brain that control movement. These areas of the brain also happen to have a large number of cannabinoid receptors. That’s the reason it is believed that stimulating these receptors with THC or CBD may reduce spasms.
The two main active components of cannabis, CBD and THC stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. For example, THC stimulates the cannabinoid receptors and delivers the ‘high’ effect. Conversely, CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect and does not cause the ‘high’. The exact mechanism by which cannabis acts as an anti-spasticity agent is still unknown, however.
One theory is that the THC-induced euphoria and pain relief helps lessen a patient’s awareness of muscle stiffness or spasticity.
Relieves chronic pain
Marijuana is an effective treatment for chronic pain. In fact, chronic pain is the most common patient-reported condition for cannabis use.
As mentioned earlier, CBD and THC act on the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies to exert certain effects. Apart from the psychoactive effects, THC also has the ability to bind with the nerves to block pain impulses from reaching the brain. This provides a sensation of pain relief. Similarly, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD provide an analgesic effect for pain relief as well, although it functions in an entirely different way.
Several studies support these findings. For instance, a 2017 NASEM report asserts that patients treated with cannabis experienced a significant drop in pain symptoms.
Help with bladder problems
Bladder dysfunction is a familiar trait of multiple sclerosis.
In 2010, a randomized controlled trial was conducted to discern whether Sativex (an oral cannabis extract) was capable of alleviating bladder symptoms in patients with MS. Although the result wasn’t statistically significant, the study concluded that Sativex did have some impact on improving symptoms associated with bladder dysfunction in MS patients.
Patients dealing with MS often experience nausea as a result of dizziness synonymous with the condition as well as the side effects of their medication. For example, drugs like Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), and Dalfampridine may cause nausea.
Changes within the endocannabinoid system in humans play a part in regulating nausea and vomiting. When cannabinoids from cannabis are present, they react with the CB1 receptors to prevent vomiting. That is why medical marijuana, which is known for its antiemetic effects, is well suited to help MS patients struggling with nausea.
CBD, the primary non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is also effective in suppressing symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
It is not uncommon for MS patients to have a poor quality of sleep. One reason is that the muscle spasms associated with MS often disrupt sleep because they are agonizing and make it difficult to rest. But, marijuana can provide relief, in fact, many of our patients report sleep better after taking it.
THC has a sedative effect and shortens the period of sleep latency. As a result, patients experience longer periods of sleep undisturbed by muscle spasms.
Meanwhile, CBD may reduce anxiety so a person becomes relaxed and their natural sleep mechanism takes over.
Fatigue is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. By interacting with certain receptors, CBD relieves pain and improves mood and energy levels.
Side effects of using medical marijuana for multiple sclerosis
On the flip side, there are symptoms of multiple sclerosis that may be aggravated by cannabis use. For example:
Gait or balance
In the publication, Marijuana as Medicine?, participants in a study smoked a single marijuana joint that had about 15 milligrams of THC. Enough to make most people feel high and impair their motor control. The study involved both healthy people and MS patients.
Later, the two parties were recorded as they stood on a platform that slid back and forth at unpredictable intervals.
The results of this experiment affirmed that whereas participants with MS felt an improvement in the symptoms after smoking, their balance and posture were actually negatively affected. Even so, it could be that their spasticity may have been reduced but it wasn’t measured.
Moreover, MS patients had a harder time maintaining their balance after smoking cannabis and were more negatively affected than the healthy participants.
Cognitive effects of cannabis in MS patients
A study by the American Academy of Neurology revealed that MS patients that used street cannabis performed worse than their counterparts who did not use the drug on cognitive tests.
The tests involved working memory, visuospatial perception, information processing speed, and executive functions.
Thus, regardless of the pain and spasticity relief cannabis provides, patients should be mindful of the possible cognitive drawback.
Nevertheless, CBD oil low in THC may provide relief while canceling out the potential negative side effects of marijuana in MS patients due to the lack of the psychoactive element of the drug. Additionally, some people find that taking CBD helps them improve their focus, which makes it a good alternative to THC during office hours. That being said, it remains an assumption for now, since there’s no scientific evidence on the subject yet.
Additionally, there’s still no evidence that medical marijuana will reduce tremors associated with MS.
Besides the side effects mentioned above, patients using marijuana may also experience:
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Depression or psychosis
Best strains for multiple sclerosis
If you are considering marijuana to treat your multiple sclerosis then you might be wondering which strain to pick for the best result. It doesn’t help that there are an estimated 700 different strains, and, depending on the state you live in, the strain you’re looking for might have a different name altogether.
Naturally, having this many options is a blessing, however it might pose a selection problem for many patients and can be overwhelming.
Speak to a Cannabis Doctor
Therefore, it’s a good idea to speak to a qualified medical marijuana doctor about finding the best solution for you. Why? Because getting a recommendation from an expert with experience in treating various medical conditions including MS with medical marijuana ensures you get a cannabis treatment works.
With QuickMedCards you can easily schedule an appointment with a cannabis doctor online and attend your appointment through a video call. After that, the doctor will provide you with a certification enabling you to qualify for medicinal cannabis treatment in your state. We offer a customized treatment plan for your condition, plus you get a free CBD gift included.
If you would like to experiment with some strains that have received great reviews from MS patients using medical pot, we recommend Leafly’s ‘Cannabis Strains That May Help With Multiple Sclerosis’.
Notably, several studies on multiple sclerosis and cannabis use reveal that:
- Cannabis extract taken in a capsule form can help ease muscle stiffness (spasticity) and spasms.
- Marijuana extracts may reduce pain.
- An oral (mouth) spray form likely reduces spasticity, pain, and bladder urgency.
You may have noticed that many studies advocate for oral admission of cannabis to treat MS. This is because you will get a longer-lasting effect from THC with oral intake. Yet, some patients advocate for smokable marijuana in their treatment instead. Perhaps more knowledge on smokable marijuana vs edibles would help you make an informed choice.
What do the doctors say about cannabis and multiple sclerosis?
Dean M. Wingerchuk, M.D., a neurologist and clinical epidemiologist specializing in neuroimmunology agrees that there are studies that support certain cannabis treatments being effective in MS therapy. But, he also states that there are some downsides to using cannabis for treatment.
In his conclusion, Dr. Wingerchuk maintains that more research is necessary to be completely clear on whether cannabis is better than the existing treatment options in terms of effectiveness and the seriousness of its side effects.
A recent interview by the Neurology Advisor with Clyde E. Markowitz, MD, the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Penn and Thorsten Rudroff, Ph.D., the Assistant Professor of Neurology – Movement Disorders in the University of Iowa Health Care saw the two specialists agree that cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of pain and spasticity in MS patients.
Additionally, the two doctors shared their patients’ experiences who reported feeling better after taking cannabis, and how some of them managed to replace their prescription medication with marijuana.
Despite their generally positive outlook, both doctors did advocate for further research on cannabis use among MS patients. Indicating that extensive research would make it possible to provide more accurate dosing options and reveal potential long-term effects of cannabis use among people with MS.
- Cannabis is beneficial for multiple sclerosis treatment especially in alleviating pain and muscle spasticity.
- Despite its benefits, marijuana may worsen balance problems and negative cognitive effects associated with MS.
- There’s still a lot of research required to determine whether cannabis is the best treatment for multiple sclerosis symptoms.
- Oral cannabis forms may be the most effective in diminishing some symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
- It’s important to speak to a medical marijuana doctor to know the best options for your cannabis treatment.