Medical Marijuana and Multiple Sclerosis
Research shows medical marijuana can reduce the side effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) and provide relief to those suffering from this illness. MS is an autoimmune disease and progressive neurodegenerative condition. It affects the nervous system, which gradually impacts the entire body.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, half a million people in the United States have been diagnosed with MS. And according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, women are diagnosed with MS at lease twice as often as men, usually between the ages of 20 – 50.
The severity and frequency of symptoms vary patient to patient. MS causes many different symptoms, including vision loss, fatigue, impaired coordination, loss of the ability to walk, slurred speech, dizziness, and pain. The severity and duration of these symptoms can vary from patient to patient. While some patients may be symptom and pain-free most of their lives, other patients can have severe chronic symptoms and pain that never goes away.
There is currently no cure for MS. Treatment usually, focuses on managing the symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.
In cases where the symptoms are new and severe, plasma exchange may be a beneficial treatment. Plasma exchange is when the plasma (the liquid portion of the blood) is extracted and separated from the blood cells. The blood cells are then mixed with albumin (a protein solution) and then put back into the body.
Corticosteroids and other steroids are often prescribed to reduce nerve inflammation. Some patients experience negative side affects with steroids, however, such as insomnia, mood swings, water retention and increased blood pressure.
A long list of different prescription pills can be prescribed to MS patients in an attempt to ease the physical pain.
Physical therapy is also a common treatment to help strengthen weakening muscles.
Medical Marijuana Treatment
In patients with MS, when immune cells activate, they release pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. These cytokines cause inflammation in the brain which results in the destruction of neurons and ultimately worsens the symptoms.
The active components in cannabis, THC, and CBD are anti-inflammatories. THC and CBD deactivate the immune system, and when the immune system is calmed down, it no longer attacks the central nervous system, which prevents the symptoms from worsening.
The American Academy of Neurology recommends the use of oral cannabis extract for muscle spasms and pain. However, the American Academy of Neurology does not support marijuana in any other form due to lack of research and evidence.
Studies show medical marijuana can help reduce muscle stiffness and help lessen the frequency of uncontrolled muscle movements. Medical marijuana has also been shown to reduce the tingling feeling MS patients often feel in their hands and feet.
Sleep is often hard to achieve due to the constant pain; however, medical marijuana has been shown to reduce pain resulting in patients sleeping better.
Along with physical pain, many patients suffering from multiple sclerosis experiences emotional stress and depression. Being in chronic, severe pain is very emotionally taxing, and many MS patients have found relief to depression by using medical marijuana.