Cannabis Use in Multiple Sclerosis

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) often seek complimentary treatments to alleviate their symptoms. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there is some evidence for the role of cannabis-based products as a complimentary alternative treatment for symptom management, although questions remain about the benefits relative to potential side effects. A new study characterizing the use of cannabis-based products by MS patients sheds some light on these questions. 

In this survey study, half the respondents reported cannabis-based product usage, with 19%  describing daily use. Of the patients with current, regular use (daily, weekly, or monthly), approximately 67% initiated use after MS onset, yet only half discussed use with a physician.  Oral and/or smoked were the most common formulations, and with higher THC to CBD ratio. 

Of the patients with regular usage, the most common reasons for initiation of cannabis-based products were pain, sleep, mood, and spasticity/tremor. Most respondents indicated a perception of symptom improvement. Side effects included memory disturbances and “brain fog”. Notably, more than half the respondents reported experiencing no side effects. 

Although the long-term safety and therapeutic potential of cannabis-based products for MS are not yet known, further study in this patient population is warranted. 

Citation:  Schabas AJ, Vukojevic V, Taylor C, Thu Z, Badyal A, Chan JK, Devonshire V, Traboulsee A, Sayao AL, Carruthers R. Cannabis-based product use in a multiple sclerosis cohort. Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2019 Sep 25; 5(3): 2055217319869360.

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