Treating MS symptoms with cannabis

Humans having been using cannabis recreationally and medically for thousands of years but there has been little scientific research done for treating specific diseases. Thankfully there has been a recent study “Medical cannabis use in Canadians with multiple sclerosis,” which provides some interesting insights. Scientists found that it can help reduce spasticity, improve sleep, and ease pain.

Recreational use was legalized in Canada in 2018 and this recent study is more relevant that previous studies as it can take data from a wider test group across Canada.

Recent Survey

The survey was answered by 344 Canadians with MS. Nearly 80% had relapsing-remitting disease, while the rest either had progressive forms or were unsure of their MS type. More than three-quarters of respondents identified as female, and the average age was about 45 years.

More than half (52.3%) of the respondents said they currently used cannabis to help manage symptoms. Another 10.2% said they had used medical cannabis, but were not current users.

The survey was answered by 344 Canadians with MS. Nearly 80% had relapsing-remitting disease, while the rest either had progressive forms or were unsure of their MS type. More than three-quarters of respondents identified as female, and the average age was about 45 years.

More than half (52.3%) of the respondents said they currently used cannabis to help manage symptoms. Another 10.2% said they had used medical cannabis, but were not current users.

 “We found that about two-thirds of participants reported having used medical cannabis to manage their MS symptoms, with those who have tried medical cannabis living with a greater disease burden than non-users,” the researchers wrote.

Among current users, the vast majority (73.8%) used it daily. The respondents reported using a range of products, including smoked or vaporized dried flower, concentrates (e.g., sublingual oil droppers or sprays), and ingestible forms (“edibles”).

The most common symptoms that patients reported using cannabis for were sleep problems (84.1%), pain (80%), muscle spasms (68.4%), stress (66.5%), and fatigue (59%).

The most common side effects associated with cannabis use included drowsiness (57.2%), feeling quiet or subdued (48.8%), difficulty concentrating (28.4%), balance problems (22.3%), and incoherent thoughts (17.7%). Most patients who reported having any of these effects said that they did not experience them a lot.

Use of Cannabis

More than 80% of users said cannabis was effective for managing spasticity, pain, sleep problems, bad mood, and stress. More than half of users agreed it can help with anxiety, fatigue, and headache. Nearly all users noted it can stimulate an appetite.

Current users tended to report that cannabis was more effective for them than former users did. Among former users, the most common reasons for stopping were cost and problems getting it (34.4%), followed by feeling it was not effective (28.6%) and having unwanted effects (17.1%).

Among those who had never used cannabis, the most common reasons given were being unaware of potential benefits (34.4%), being uninterested or feeling it was unnecessary (15%), and concerns around social stigma (14.4%).

The researchers noted that most users learned about cannabis from friends or their own research online, rather than from discussions with a healthcare provider.
Overall, the results show that more research into the potential benefits of cannabis in MS is needed, the team concluded.

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