Patients with MS often seek complimentary treatments to alleviate their symptoms. In a recent survey, MS patients were more likely to report marijuana usage in the past three months than healthy individuals, and usage was associated with relapsing-remitting MS disease course and symptom treatment.
The signs and symptoms of MS widely vary. However, approximately 60-90% of patients with MS experience spasticity during the course of their illness. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there is some clinical evidence for the role of cannabis-based therapeutics as a complementary alternative treatment for symptom management, although questions remain about the benefits relative to potential side effects.
At the recent American Academy of Neurology meeting, a new study was presented on patient-reported cannabis use and spasticity in MS patients from Oregon. One-third of the surveyed patients reported using cannabis, including inhaled, topical, and edibles. Of those who used cannabis, all reported usage at least once a week, with more than half reporting daily use. All patients described cannabis being somewhat or very helpful for pain and almost 80% expressed similar benefit for spasticity. For the majority of patients, cannabis was used in addition to their prescribed medication.
Although the long-term safety and therapeutic potential of cannabis for MS and spasticity are not yet known, in Oregon, where both medical and recreational cannabis are legal, approximately one-third of surveyed patients reported using cannabis and found it to be helpful for pain and spasticity.
Gupta S, Fellows K, Weinstock-Guttman B, Hagemeier J, Zivadinov R, Ramanathan M. Marijuana use by patients with multiple sclerosis. Int J MS Care. 2019 Mar-Apr;21(2):57-62.
Hugos C, Rice J, Cameron M. Cannabis use in people with multiple sclerosis and self-reported spasticity (P5.2-100). Neurology. 2019 April 9; 92 (15 Supplement). P5.2-100.
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