Medical Marijuana Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, chronic disease that results in muscle and coordination impairment, of which muscle spasticity is the most noticeable effect. Other symptoms include chronic pain; blurred vision; numbness, fatigue; memory problems; walking and sexual problems; depression, and bladder and bowel control issues.

What happens is the sufferer’s immune system attacks the sheaths –myelin – which wrap around and protect nerve fibers, which are responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses. This action manipulates and moves muscles. As myelin is attacked and rendered ineffective, nerve fibers are the next victims, causing serious muscle control issues of the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cells. Sufferers often are in their 20s to 40s before they begin to notice MS symptoms.

Spasticity means uncontrollable muscle movements, stiffness, and twitching; 20 percent of MS patients experience this. The smooth movement muscles are damaged by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This is predominately responsible for spasticity. It is thought that inflammation is one root cause of MS. Immune cells on the attack exude pro-inflammatory proteins. These proteins are responsible for a lot of brain inflammation resulting in the destruction of neurons.

But cannabinoids are known as major anti-inflammatories. It somehow calms down the immune system, which slows the destruction of neurons. Cannabis may also be neurogenesis in adults. This means it could help in the creation of new brain cells.

Medical marijuana (MMJ) users, most of them smoked the drug, reported a two-fold improvement in pain. The same group reported fewer body spasms and experienced improved sleep. The cannabis-derived oral spray Sativex, by British pharmaceutical company GW, significantly improved the reduction of muscle spasms. Presently, it is available in 12 countries -- though not the United States -- to treat MS spasticity and pain.

And if you need organizational validation: The American Academy of Neurology released a statement which said,” THC and an oral cannabis extract are probably effective for spasticity and pain, as patients reported”.

THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the compounds found in cannabis that has medical qualities. CBDs are the other major compounds, and that stands for Cannabidiols.

In 2013, Tel Aviv University found that THC and CBD prevent inflammation of the brain and spine.

Cannabinoid Receptors

Were you aware that our bodies have natural cannabinoid receptors? Yeah, really! Built-in cannabinoid receptors; our God-given go ahead to imbibe.

Which is possibly the reason why the human body is responsive to MMJ on so many levels and in so many ways. The cannabinoids we manufacture in our bodies are called “endocannabinoids”. Cannabinoids manufactured by plants are called “phytocannabinoids”. Cannabinoids, whether “endo” or “phyto” change the way our cells communicate with each other. We now know that the endocannabinoid system helps to mediate MS symptoms.

We also now know that the receptors in our bodies sensitive to cannabinoids have the ability to relax muscles; reduce inflammation; cut down on nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. So there is almost a natural logic in exploring what medical marijuana can do for folks with MS. There have been some studies that MMJ can treat stiffness and uncontrolled muscle movements. Medical marijuana may help subdue spasms, allowing more freedom of movement of the patient’s arms and legs.

There is evidence that medical cannabis can relieve chronic pain. The way scientists believe it works is that THC and CBD lock into the body’s pain receptors. This may help prevent the inflammation which causes pain and discomfort as body tissues deteriorate. It is also thought that as pain cells die, they send out pain signals.

Animal studies seem to confirm the efficacy of cannabis on MS symptoms. Depressed rats with low levels of endocannabinoids were injected with cannabis compounds. This relieved the rat’s depression by flooding its brain with phytocannabinoids, some concluded.

In another study, MS-infected mice who were paralyzed walked after administration of CBD at Tel Aviv University. It was further corroborated by a 2012 study conducted by the University of Plymouth with human subjects. Compared to those who used the placebo, subjects found cannabis relieved stiffness and muscle spasms. Further, after 12 weeks of use, patients reported a significant decrease in spasticity.

So, half the states in this country with medical marijuana say “yes” to the use of it for MS. The other half tend to leave that recommendation to the doctor’s discretion. With much more research needed into this dynamic relationship, medical marijuana could be found to be a very important therapeutic treatment for this disease. Only time and research will tell.