A recently released study has announced some optimistic results this week, after finding that cannabis could be beneficial at treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis, or ‘MS’, is an illness that affects the body’s central nervous system. Specifically, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath around nerve fibres, mistaking them for a foreign body and causing nerve damage. Patients suffering from MS frequently have trouble with movement, vision problems, bladder function and severe pain.
However, results from Oregon Health and Science University show promise in using medical cannabis to treat MS symptoms. The study included over 1,014 patients diagnosed with MS, and investigated treatments using alternative therapies – including cannabis.
While it was one of the least popular forms of symptom treatment, cannabis was the second most beneficial. Over 70.8% of cannabis users with MS found the drug to be effective at treating MS symptoms. According to the study, cannabis was found to be more beneficial than mind and body therapies, diet changes, disease-modifying therapies, and supplements.
Interestingly, this study isn’t the first to link cannabis to MS, as MS Research Australia advocates for the use of medical cannabis to treat a range of symptoms – including neuropathic pain, bladder issues, muscle spasticity and sleep problems. In mice with MS, hemp oil has also been proven effective at treating neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage.
Research has shown that medicinal cannabis can be useful to treat some of the symptoms of MS in some people. There is limited evidence that medicinal cannabis can have an effect on the disease course itself, by reducing the number of relapses, or slowing the progression of the disease and accumulation of disability.
While research into cannabis and neuropathic pain in humans is ongoing, it does appear that alternative therapies for MS are increasingly popular.
The 2020 study, published in the Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders Journal, also compared its findings to a similar 2001 study. This found that MS patients are increasingly using alternative therapies to manage their symptoms, with an increase in dietary supplements, mind-body therapies, and exercise. As cannabis was not included in the 2001 study, we cannot measure an increase in use. However, other studies have found that cannabis use in MS patients is dependent on legalisation, saying:
As cannabis legalisation has impacted the variety of cannabis products available, there appears to be growing numbers of patients using cannabis.
Oregon Health and Science University expects to conduct further research into cannabis treatments going forward, as MS currently affects over 2 million people around the world.