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How Medical Marijuana Can Be Used to Treat Multiple Sclerosis

A review of existing research has concluded that medical cannabis could soon be used to successfully treat muscle pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Thanks to new research and to medical marijuana legalization, Ohioans with multiple sclerosis (MS) now have access to a new form of treatment for some of their most troubling symptoms. A review of current scientific studies presented at the Consortium of MS Centers has concluded that muscle pain and spasms in MS sufferers could be significantly reduced through the regular use of cannabinoid-based medications.

While recent advances have been made in optimizing treatment of MS, there is currently no cure for the disease or its symptoms. Therefore, many MS patients seek out multiple, complementary therapies in order to optimize their quality of life. The finding that cannabinoids like CBD can be used to treat chronic pain, fatigue, spasticity, and even improve mobility may come as a boon to MS sufferers seeking to minimize their symptoms with alternatives courses of treatment.

A Steady Improvement of Symptoms

In the case of people like Zach, an MS patient interviewed by WebMD, cannabinoids might seem intimidating. “I’m the biggest square you’ll ever meet,” he said. “I’ve never even been drunk before. So I was on the fence about using it.” But Zach said his condition was advanced, limiting his mobility and even vision in his right eye. While recreational cannabis use was of no interest to him, the drug’s potential as medication was too promising for him to pass up.

Luckily, MS patients like Zach can take cannabis supplements that don’t induce the psychotropic effects or “high” associated with traditional marijuana. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that researchers have concluded is effective in treating MS symptoms like pain and fatigue. Unlike THC, CBD can bring anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective benefits to patients without many of the side effects commonly associated with cannabis, including clouded thinking and anxiety.

Though Zach was prescribed a psychoactive variant of medical cannabis, he reported only mild side effects that he claimed could have easily arisen from one of the other medications he takes for his MS. The drug takes some time to work, but after a few weeks, Zach reports that the marijuana “takes the edge off” the pain he experiences as a result of his condition.

Why Cannabinoids Work

Multiple sclerosis is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system, damaging the fatty substance that protects nerve fibers called myelin. Cannabis is being promoted as an alternative to the pain pills that are typically prescribed for the treatment of MS pain not just because it’s non-addictive, but because it addresses pain in an entirely different way.

“I had severe excruciating pain from muscle spasms, but the muscles themselves aren’t to blame,” Carolyn Kaufman told Healthline. “It’s coming from damage on my spine and the muscle relaxers and pain pills go right to the muscle itself. Cannabis reduces inflammation, slowing down the disease activity and calming your entire system.” Kaufman is an advocate for those suffering from MS who has been using medical marijuana since she was diagnosed in 2009.

The Consortium of MS Centers review stresses that there remain gaps in the available research — studies that compare cannabis with non-cannabinoid therapies are still needed. However, more and more available research suggests that marijuana has at least the potential to help MS patients manage their chronic symptoms.

If you’re curious about whether medical marijuana might be appropriate to relieve your muscle pain and spasticity, consider scheduling an appointment with the Lakewood Medical Clinic. We can examine your medical history and help you understand if MM might be a good choice as you optimize your MS treatment.