Medical marijuana may ease some MS symptoms
March 24th, 2014
04:02 PM ET

Medical marijuana may ease some MS symptoms

Medical marijuana might be the most effective complementary or alternative medicine to provide relief of symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) released Monday.

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are nontraditional therapies often used in addition to (and sometimes instead of) doctor recommended treatments.

The guidelines are based on recommendations made by a panel of nine physicians chosen by the AAN who are experts in the field of CAM. They identified and reviewed 291 studies and literature from the last 43 years. Of those, 115 made the cut; most were short, lasting between six and 15 weeks.

"This is the first-ever review, evidence-based recommendation, on the treatment of MS with CAM therapies," says Dr. Vijayshree Yadav, lead author and clinical director of Oregon Health and Science University's Multiple Sclerosis Center. "There were 29 different therapies included in the guidelines. Nineteen studies looked at cannabis."

The new guidelines will help clinicians determine if CAM therapies help reduce specific symptoms and prevent relapse or further disability; make the disease worse or cause serious side effects; or interfere with other MS therapies.

"It looks like there is little evidence for the effectiveness of most CAM therapies to treat MS,"Yadav said. "For most CAM therapies safety is unknown. We also did not find evidence to show (whether) the therapies interact with prescription MS drugs."

Because so many people are using CAM therapies, more research is still needed, Yadav said.

Multiple sclerosis damages the myelin coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system, according to the National MS Society, which in turn interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body.

Women are more often diagnosed than men, and symptoms generally appear between 20 and 50 years of age. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. But a number of treatments can slow the progression and help manage the often debilitating symptoms.

According to the MS Foundation, symptoms typically include fatigue, spasticity (stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms most often in the legs), weakness, balance problems, numbness, vision loss, bladder and bowel issues, tremors and depression. Symptoms are varied, unpredictable, and no patient gets all of them. Most patients go through episodes or attacks and remissions. Sometimes the damage is permanent.

The researchers found certain forms of medical marijuana - oral cannabis extract and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana ) could help reduce spasticity and pain for up to a year, but were  ineffective against tremors. They also found Sativex, an oral cannabinoid spray, helps reduce stiffness and frequent urination but not MS-related tremors.  Sativex, currently available in 25 countries to help treat MS, is not sold in the United States.

A few other alternative treatments also showed some benefits.

"For example, ginkgo biloba is used by many patients. The study did not find effectiveness for cognition, but possibly effective for fatigue." Yadav said. "Similarly, magnetic therapy is probably effective for fatigue but probably ineffective for depression. Reflexology showed some evidence that it might help lessen paresthesia (tingling or numbness or unusual skin sensations)."

Both fish oil and bee sting therapy were also found to be ineffective for MS-related relapses, neurologic disability, fatigue, MRI lesions (MS-related lesions on the brain or spinal cord) and quality of life, according to Yadav.

Still researchers warn most CAM therapies are not FDA regulated, leading to concerns about using CAM and in particular cannabis, which can cause side effects that mirror the diseases' symptoms like dizziness, thinking and memory problems.

Dr. Robert Fox, a neurologist and MS expert at the Cleveland Clinic, called the guidelines "a very important step forward," but echoed those concerns.

"There are important safety concerns with cannabinoid therapy including marijuana. These include cognitive side effects and mood disruptions, such as depression," he noted. "Marijuana remains illegal in many states ...

clinicians cannot recommend marijuana in states where it is still illegal."

According to Fox, up to 80% of people with MS use CAM treatments.

"Patients will often seek CAM therapies for their disease,”says Fox. "That makes it difficult for clinicians to always understand the potential benefits and side effects of the various therapies. These guidelines assimilate a large number of CAM therapies into a single source for clinicians by having a guideline for many CAM therapies all in one place so clinicians are better armed to counsel their patients."

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Lojack

    Cannabis is good for everything.

    March 25, 2014 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hot Flashes

      Marijuana does wonders for Menopause problems!

      March 26, 2014 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
  2. Timmy Suckle

    I kissed my way up to CEO at a health insurance company. Now I take over $1,000,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other CEOs, VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easily fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $117,000 level. Now I only pay 1.17% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.

    March 25, 2014 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wealth by Taxation

      All of the surplus goes straight to the illuminati.
      They needed a new money funnel after everyone filed bankcruptcy on their credit cards, which was their prior money funnel..

      March 26, 2014 at 08:49 | Report abuse |
    • Lojack

      Yeah right, Timmy. Now go back to playing your video games.

      March 26, 2014 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
  3. caliboss

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    Senator Kimberly Yee of Arizona is denying a marijuana research bill for vetarans, she should be jailed

    "any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….my turn, I gave you 20 years, watch and learn

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


    March 26, 2014 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lojack

      Unfortunately it's not even close to free, it costs an arm and a leg. They need to legalize it for recreational use and get it down to $20 an ounce; $10 of which is taxes.

      March 26, 2014 at 11:36 | Report abuse |
    • caliboss

      it's free if you live in cali....hundreds of my friends and family have grown 99 plants for almost 20 years...around 1-2 dollars a gram

      March 27, 2014 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
    • shelbydawkins

      ALL prohibitionists should be jailed. Gov Sctt and his henchman attorney general Bondi down in Florida are particularly good examples....

      March 29, 2014 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  4. Space

    But I was ASSURED by the federal government that marijuana has NO KNOWN MEDICINAL VALUE. All of these doctors have to obviously be lying. Why else would marijuana still be classified as schedule 1?

    March 26, 2014 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Yahshva

    Actually Marijuana is mentioned in the bible by name:

    1980, etymologists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed that cannabis is mentioned in the Bible by name, Kineboisin (Also spelled Kannabosm), in a list of measured ingredients for "an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compounded after the art of apothecary to be smeared on the head. The word was mistranslated in King James version as `calamus' – Exodus 30:23 (Latimer 1988).

    The above means it was in the oil they used to rub on their skin, it was in the bread they ate called the Lord's Supper, and it was in the incense that was burned in the temples.

    Marijuana is the Tree-Of-Life talked about in the bible, indeed it was a real tree that grew from the ground:

    Gen 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree, the tree of life was also growing in the garden...

    The above reveals that the Tree-Of-Life is indeed a real tree that grows in the ground.

    Rev 22:2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the ocean, was the tree of life. The foliage of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

    We are living in a day when the Tree-Of-Life (what the world calls marijuana) is healing everything it comes in contact with.

    The ONLY thing dangerous about marijuana are the cops who shoot people for having it:

    Number of American deaths per year that result directly or primarily from the following selected causes nationwide, according to World Almanacs, Life Insurance Actuarial (death) Rates, and the last 20 years of U.S. Surgeon Generals' reports.

    TOBACCO – 340,000 to 450,000

    ALCOHOL (Not including 50% of all highway deaths and 65% of all murders) – 150,000+

    ASPIRIN (Including deliberate overdose) – 180 to 1,000+

    CAFFEINE (From stress, ulcers, and triggering irregular heartbeats, etc.) – 1,000 to 10,000

    "LEGAL" DRUG OVERDOSE (Deliberate or accidental) from legal, prescribed or patent medicines and/or mixing with alcohol – e.g. Valium/alcohol – 14,000 to 27,000

    ILLICIT DRUG OVERDOSE – (Deliberate or accidental) from all illegal drugs – 3,800 to 5,200


    (**Marijuana users also have the same or LOWER incidence of murders and highway deaths and accidents than the general NON-marijuana using population as a whole.** Cancer Study, UCLA; U.S. Funded ($6 million), First & Second Jamaican Studies, 1968 to 1974; Costa Rican Studies, 1980 to 1982; et al. LOWEST TOXICITY 100% of the studies done at dozens of American universities and research facilities show pot toxicity does not exist. Medical history does not record anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana (UCLA, Harvard, Temple, etc.)

    Accordingly a 1993 study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation came to the same conclusion as the above concerning marijuana and driving safety:

    “Marijuana, administered in a dose of 100 µg THC per kg of whole body weight...did not significantly change mean driving performance as measured...” – U.S Department of Transportation: Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance DOT HS 808 078

    The fact is people who use marijuana reflexes are not affected in a negative way and they become more conscious of safety, sometimes refusing to even drive.

    Marijuana is a plant with a safety record second to none.

    Anyone who would like to dispute these FACTS, point to a credible death that involves marijuana and nothing but marijuana, or hold your tongue.

    March 26, 2014 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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  9. Foot Pain

    This is a great idea. My late mother used marijuana for stomach pains and foot cramps. She preheats the leaves and place it to the aching part and I've been doing this for instances with additional essential oils.

    April 6, 2014 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. barneys farm seeds

    Marijuana will be legal soon in the US and it will help heal the nation in more ways than can be noted. We also need to make sure hemp is legalized and then used in production and manufacturing.

    April 7, 2014 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Green

    At least marijuana won't have long term effects on your liver. All medications prescribed by doctors are for the monetary benefit of doctors and the people who produce the medications. There needs to be comparison between medications and possible short and long-term complications. Versus marijuana.

    April 10, 2014 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lojack

    Gee, my arm just twitched involuntarily. Pass the doob!

    April 11, 2014 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. mary rose

    Today, 2.3 Million Americans live with epilepsy with more than 1 million of them experiencing uncontrolled seizures. CBDs (Cannabidiol) which are non-psychoactive have been proven to help reduce the frequency of these seizures.

    Gevitta is working hard creating a legal CBD spray that is derived from HEMP. We are starting with a crowdfunding campaign set to launch shortly in order to raise the money needed for production as well as further studies on the effectiveness of CBDs on other diseases.

    If you are interested in learning more about this amazing new product visit our site at http://www.gevitta.com/indiegogo

    April 12, 2014 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Tal

    Tell them!

    April 15, 2014 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cheech

    Due to my orthopaedic and neurological illness, I have been looking for Medical Marihuana. Some might say, why don't you grow your own? Well problem is, that my gardening skills are Zero and nothing grows. I don't have a "Green Thumb", so to speak.

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    Some might be reluctant to believe, that Mail Order Marijuana works, but it does. I am glad to see, that sites, as yours, gives a lot of information for people same as me. Thank you all and stay healthy at all times.

    July 29, 2014 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kristina

    I've been dealing with MS for almost 3 years now, I got diagnosed 8 months after me and my husband got married, and before I got diagnosed I was going to school,working, driving, and now I'm NOT working, or driving, I'm a stay at home mom to my almost 9 month old daughter, and I'm taking the MS medicine Gilleninya it's been working ok, but my main issue is I get REALLY BAD headaches, and the ONLY thing that I have found to kinda get rid of my headaches/pain is medical marijuana, my question is does medical marijuana help decipate MS lesions? I have a lot and I know that's a BIG factor of my headaches but I don't know what else to do........

    February 21, 2015 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Hi Kristina,
      After 3 years of being treated for Lyme (had rash and blood tests showing Lyme), I was having terrible headaches 24/7 along with chronic fatigue (I am 62 now). Finally, after a MRI and Lumbar Puncture, MS lesions were found. Only things that helps me fuction –oxycodone for headaches(and Vikodan for breakthrough headaches–and stimulants for fatigue. I suggest you talk to your octor, or neurologist for relief of headaches through some opiate medicine. Oxycontin is just time-released Percocet. When I run out of medicine for a few days-my life stops because of the headache pain. So, Good Luck and I hope this may help you. I also have "medical" marijuana(I live in CT-legal with doctor's approval)–which helps me with any back stiffness or leg pain (every morning). I have RRMS. What type do you have?-John

      April 20, 2015 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
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    Marijuana's anti-inflammatory pain relief has shown to be effective in treating a host of illnesses and conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis.

    June 1, 2015 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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