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Study finds 42% of MS sufferers have self-managed symptoms with medical cannabis

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A new study has found that high numbers of people are successfully self-managing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with medical cannabis, despite a lack of research.

Published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical, the study interviewed 1,027 people in the US who live with MS.

MS is a condition that interferes with nerve impulses in the optic nerves, spinal cord and brain. Over 25,600 Australians are affected by the condition, which frequently causes pain and insomnia. 

The study asked participants about their cannabis use, finding that 42% of participants had tried a cannabinoid in the past year.

Overall, 76.9% of cannabis users in the study described the use of medical cannabis as either absolutely beneficial or somewhat beneficial. 

According to one of the studies authors Anna Kratz PhD, medical cannabis is often recommended for the management of MS, as many MS sufferers find conventional treatments unhelpful. 

However, education and research on MS and medical cannabis is still developing, meaning patients are often left with nowhere to turn for guidance on medical cannabis use. 

Provider guidance for patients must be informed by research focused on the benefits and harms of both CBD and THC and potential mechanisms that underlie the effects of cannabinoids on MS symptoms.

Although high numbers of study participants had tried cannabis to manage their symptoms, only 18% consulted their physician about cannabis. Additionally, less than 1% of participants had received recommendations on cannabis products that could manage their symptoms.

However, participants also reported that cannabis was helping them manage symptoms of MS – particularly sleep issues. 78% of those who used cannabis for sleep issues reported sleeping better. 

According to the Kratz, this study shows research has “not caught up with consumer use” of medical cannabis. Another co-author, Dr. Tiffany Braly, also points out that research on MS and cannabis in men and ethnic minorities is also lacking, meaning current research on medical cannabis for MS may apply to many sufferers. 

Despite a lack of research, medical cannabis does appear to be helpful to many MS sufferers. 

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