Does Medical Marijuana Help MS?
The National MS Society estimates 2.3 million people suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) around the world. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic progressive neurological disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. MS is characterized by a variety of disabling symptoms. Many MS patients find relief with medical marijuana.
Watch & Listen to Meg Llewellyn discuss using cannabis for multiple sclerosis on my web series, Patients Are the Proof.
It’s important to point out, like all medications, cannabis doesn’t work for everyone, however for many patients, cannabis helps relieve a variety of symptoms of MS and can dramatically enhance the quality of life.
It’s also important to note that different strains of cannabis can cause different reactions in every person. If one strain isn’t effective at managing the symptoms, try another. Here are 12 ways cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
12 Ways Cannabis Helps MS
1) Reduces Pain
The National MS Society states,
“In one study, 55 percent of people with MS had “clinically significant pain” at some time and 48 percent were troubled by chronic pain.”
One of the most popular medical uses of cannabis is to relieve chronic pain. Unlike traditional opiates, cannabis may offer relief for a variety of pain types and syndromes, including headaches, muscle pain, bone pain, and nerve pain.
2) Reduces Spasticity
A hallmark symptom of multiple sclerosis is muscle stiffness and spasticity. When the myelin-sheath protecting the nerve is destroyed, the nerve goes haywire. The errant electrical impulses can cause uncontrollable muscle spasms. The traditional medications to treat spasticity including valium, Zanaflex, and Flexeril, are frequently accompanied by troubling side effects and a risk for addiction.
Research has found that cannabis may help reduce muscle spasticity and relieve stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis. In 2012, a UK controlled trial studied MS patients. Researchers found a low dose of cannabis was twice as effective at reducing muscle stiffness compared to a placebo. Patients receiving cannabis also noted a decrease in pain and improvement in sleep.
Additionally, a 2007 study in the European Journal of Neurology showed 40% of the patients receiving cannabis extract noted a decreased spasticity of greater than 30%.
I do not suffer from MS, but I do endure excruciating muscle spasms from a spinal injury. One of my favorite benefits of medical marijuana is its remarkable power to relieve muscle spasms.
3) Regulates the Immune System
Multiple Sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease, which means the immune system attacks the patient’s own cells. The cause and mechanism of MS aren’t fully understood yet.
Theories have been presented that the endocannabinoid system may play a role in regulating the immune system. This is supported by promising research which suggests cannabis may affect the endocannabinoid system and regulate the immune system in Multiple Sclerosis patients.
4) Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation significantly contributes to multiple sclerosis. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis have been attributed to “inflammatory demyelination“. To combat this chronic inflammation, physicians routinely prescribe high doses of steroids to multiple sclerosis patients.
Cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory Cannabis may balance the internal regulation of the inflammatory system. Research published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine explains cannabis can be an effective “weapon in the arsenal of the immune system for fighting invading pathogens and initiating tissue repair.”
5) Regulates Sleep
MS patients suffer from sleep issues triggered by a variety of causes, including pain, depression, anxiety, bladder or bowel issues, and more.
Research has shown, cannabis can help patients fall asleep more quickly. When patients want to boost their sleepiness they should reach for an aged harvest. Cannabis naturally breaks down into the cannabinoid, CBN (cannabinol) over time and CBN is a sedating. Old cannabis generally makes you feel more sleepy than fresh.
6) Reduces Neuropathic Pain & Numbness
As the myelin sheath of the central nervous system is damaged, lesions may trigger nerve pain, numbness, tingling, and other abnormal sensations. Neurogenic pain is notoriously hard to treat.
A 2018 review of randomized controlled trials, determined patients experienced a reduction in neuropathic pain when using cannabis. Anecdotal evidence includes patient reports noting an increase in sensation with prolonged cannabis use.
7) Battles Depression & Anxiety
The National MS Society says,
Depression in its various forms is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In fact, studies have suggested that clinical depression—the most severe form—is more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or in many other chronic illnesses.
Cannabis can help reduce anxiety and depression. Again, it’s important to remember, not all cannabis is the same. Every strain of cannabis can cause a different physical or emotional reaction. If a strain doesn’t relieve the symptoms, try a different strain. How much cannabis is consumed is also important.
8) Eases Bladder Incontinence
Multiple sclerosis patients often suffer from bladder incontinence as a result of bladder spasms.
Research shows cannabis may help reduce overactive bladder syndrome by decreasing spasticity. Reach for strains that are high in CBG (cannabigerol).
9) Soothes Gastrointestinal Issues
Multiple sclerosis can cause a range of gastrointestinal issues from hyper-bowel activity and diarrhea, to low-bowel activity and constipation.
Research has shown that cannabis can ease a variety of gastrointestinal diseases and issues.
10) Boosts Energy Levels
Fatigue is the most commonly reported symptom in multiple sclerosis patients. It can be caused by the symptoms, interruptions in sleep, or the disease process.
Some strains of cannabis are energizing, boosting energy levels and reducing fatigue. Sativa-dominant strains can help increases energy levels.
11) Reduces Seizures
Multiple sclerosis patients have an increased risk fo experiencing seizures. Brain lesions increase the risk of seizures. Cannabis is renown for reducing and/or eliminating seizures.
In some cases, CBD (cannabidiol) alone is effective in treating seizures.
12) Enhances Cognition
The cognitive symptoms of MS can be particularly frustrating and disabling.
Cannabis can help relieve a variety of symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana should be added to a care plan under the guidance of a licensed care provider. It’s important to remember, not all strain of cannabis are the same. If one strain doesn’t work, there are a thousand other strains out there to try.
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