Can Marijuana Treat MS Symptoms?
Published on 1/17/17
Due to marijuana's Schedule 1 classification it is extremely difficult to get approved for research on the drug, so in the meantime anecdotal evidence will have to be enough when patients are considering cannabis to treat their illness. In medical marijuana states, patients need a recommendation from their doctor to purchase marijuana, but doctors cannot write a prescription for a specific strain or cannabis product due to the gaps in research and policy. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of many conditions where current treatments just aren't enough to tame painful symptoms, leading many to search for other options like cannabis. While they wait for a license to research a Schedule 1 substance, the Integrative Neurophysiology Laboratory at Colorado State University is taking it upon themselves to survey MS patients and allow them to self report their findings with and without cannabis use. So far the submitted data is showing that 66% of respondents are currently using cannabis, and 78% of those cannabis users have lowered their dose of other medications or stopped taking the other medications due to marijuana.
My lab's long-term goal is to determine whether cannabis can safely and effectively treat MS symptoms. But because of current federal regulations our lab can conduct only observational studies at this time. To conduct clinical trials with a Schedule 1 substance, investigators must have a special license, which my lab is in the process of applying for.
At the moment, this means we study only people who are or are about to use cannabis and we do not provide cannabis to anyone for our studies.Our preliminary results indicate that people with MS using cannabis have greater physical activity levels, leg strength and walking speed, while also having less spasticity, fatigue and a lower perceived risk of falling. It is of note that these individuals are rarely using only cannabis to help control their symptoms. They are often using cannabis alongside traditional medications.
The answers to these questions will provide guidelines for health care providers and people with MS on cannabis use. If these studies can demonstrate that cannabis effectively relieves and treats MS symptoms, they could help establish the medicinal value of cannabis. That could make a case for rescheduling cannabis, making it easier for physicians and researchers to establish cannabis' true benefits and risks.