What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a long-lasting and debilitating disease that can affect basic body functions. It can also cause memory problems, major depression, and sexual dysfunction.
Multiple sclerosis isn’t fatal. What’s scary are the complications that can happen once the disease reaches its advanced stage, like muscle stiffness, paralysis, epilepsy, and bowel and bladder problems.
The condition also isn’t something you can catch from other people.
It’s actually an autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system destroys the fatty substances that cushion and protect the nerve fibers of the spinal cord and brain.
It’s not clear why multiple sclerosis happens to some people. However, it’s believed that a combination of environmental factors and genetics plays a huge role in its development.
Is it treatable?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for the disease yet. Most of the treatment options available today are geared towards slowing its progression, managing the symptoms, and aiding recovery from attacks.
People diagnosed with multiple sclerosis need long-term adherence to therapy and treatment to manage their conditions and that can be quite challenging. The cost of the medicines, treatment fatigue, side effects, and perceived lack of efficacy can make patients quit even before they experience relief.
This is why alternative treatments, like medical marijuana and CBD products, are getting more and more popular among people struggling with multiple sclerosis. But are they effective?
Can Medical Marijuana Help Treat Multiple Sclerosis?
Honestly, you won’t be able to get a clear answer to that yet.
It’s because studies concerning medical marijuana and multiple sclerosis are still not conclusive. So far, however, existing studies show promising results.
For example, one study published by the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry showed that participants who were given an oral extract of marijuana for about 12 weeks experience more relief from muscle stiffness.
A trial study in 2012 looked into the effects of smoking marijuana on the disease’s symptoms. The experts who conducted the study found out that smoking marijuana caused better pain reduction than the placebo they gave to the participants.
The same results were observed in a separate study done in 2012.
Oral use of marijuana was also found helpful in easing bladder dysfunction.
In this trial study, the participants were given marijuana extract and placebo which they took for 10 weeks.
Although the results weren’t that significant in terms of numbers, it showed how marijuana might help improve the bladder issues of people living with multiple sclerosis.
Now, let’s talk about smoked cannabis.
Although it’s different from medical marijuana, it’s better if you also know about it and its effects.
A study published in Neurology compared two groups of participants with MS. One group smoked cannabis while the other didn’t.
After 12 hours of smoking cannabis, cognitive testing was done on both groups. Short-term memory and other aspects of cognition were about 30% worse for those who smoked cannabis.
Now, why is this bad?
People with MS tend to struggle with problems with memory and cognition. If you smoke cannabis, you’re likely to experience more problems in those areas.
Apart from that, there’s the risk of dependency, too. You may also experience dry eyes because cannabis is classified as an anticholinergic.
Let’s go back with medical marijuana.
Smoking cannabis isn’t the same as medical marijuana because they have different preparations. The latter uses cannabis extracts and it doesn’t have the psychoactive substances.
To date, the Food and Drug Authority only has one approved cannabis-derived drug and that’s Epidiolex. It’s prescribed to manage a specific type of epilepsy.
The agency has two other approved synthetic cannabis products but they aren’t intended to be used in MS cases.
The Possible Side Effects of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana isn’t for everyone and it’s definitely not for all cases and stages of multiple sclerosis. And even though it’s natural, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have side effects.
Some people experience these negative effects:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Poor balance and coordination
With these in mind, you should also take note that not all people respond to the same dose. Some people experience relief by taking a low concentration while others need to increase their dose just to feel a difference.
For someone with multiple sclerosis, it’s not recommended that you test out doses and strengths on your own. It’s not just a waste of money but it can also worsen your condition.
If you are planning on adding medical marijuana to your existing treatment plan, make sure that you discuss it with your doctor first. Talk about the pros and cons and see if the benefits outweigh the side effects on your case.
If your doctor thinks that medical marijuana can help manage your MS, it’s a good idea to do your research first before purchasing anything. Remember, medical marijuana isn’t regulated.
Knowing all your options and doing your research about brands and products are things you can do to protect yourself as a consumer.
Medical marijuana is gaining popularity for its long list of potential benefits. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone with multiple sclerosis should give it a try.
More studies and further research is necessary before experts can say its true benefits for MS and other chronic and debilitating conditions. If you are considering to use it for your treatment, make sure that you’ve weighed the benefits and risks with your doctor.