THC is responsible for the high gained from cannabis, and is usually the element that is restricted.
For example CBD oil is perfectly legal in most countries and therefore you can use CBD for MS without issue. That said currently there aren’t any CBD products that are licenced to treat MS, and currently there are no conclusive studies suggesting it’s effective at treating symptoms, although many MSers report positive results. CBD oil is commonly sold as a food supplement rather than a medicine specifically.
However, there are currently prescription drugs like Sativex or Nabilone which are available for symptomatic relief of spasms and pain.
What Do The Studies Say: Can Cannabis Treat MS?
Well there’s more than a little variation here. Can cannabis based medicines be used to treat certain symptoms, yes. Can smoking weed help MS, well, the studies suggest the opposite is true and unsurprisingly it’s worse if you add tobacco into the mix.
MSers treated with THC based medication for spasticity reported a high satisfaction with the drug….. (we can’t think of any potential reasons for this), but no notable improvements on the Ashworth scale.
The Risks Of Smoking Cannabis With MS
Aside from the usual risks of smoking cannabis, which are largely around exacerbating mental health issues, there are some extra ones to be concerned about if you have MS.
The possible link between cannabis use and depression is perhaps the most worrying due to the increased risks that MS itself has with causing depression.
Although, aside from the recent Australian study of adolescents showing smokers were 5 times more likely to develop depression, but that those that had suffered depression already were no more likely to smoke does suggest more than just a correlative link, there is not a great deal of current evidence to show for certain that cannabis can cause depression outside of younger people. It is potentially advisable that younger MSers avoid cannabis for these reasons, due to its effects on the still developing brain.
We should also mention it’s short term effects which can also add onto existing issues, particularly lethargy and anxiety, although in some cases it can be used to treat anxiety, so again this is a double edged sword. Most available research would suggest that chronic use is likely to exacerbate anxiety issues over a long period of time. And due to an increased risk of suffering from Anxiety if you have MS, this should be considered.
Typically the most adverse effects come from mixing it with tobacco, as the tobacco can speed up movement from RRMS to SPMS and can make some MS drugs work less efficiently. In short, if you are going to smoke cannabis for self medicative purposes, definitely don’t mix it with tobacco.
Some tests have also shown lower cognitive function in MSers who smoke cannabis regularly, in that they showed abnormal MRI brain activity and slower information processing skills and impaired memory.
Cannabis and MS studies
In 2014 the AAN (american association of neurology) didn’t find any conclusive results aside from that patients self reported improvements managing spasticity and pain, this is unsurprising as cannabis has been seen to treat these symptoms in other conditions.
In 2017 NASEM had similar results, with MSers self reporting improvements in spasticity, but tests showing less clear results.
MS Society UK, currently states that it’s medical experts say that about 1 in 10 MSers would see improvements after using cannabis if other methods of treatment have failed.
Our Stance on MS and Cannabis
We believe that cannabis use for MS is really a decision for the individual and their doctor. If it helps manage symptoms then it’s up to the individual to way up the benefits versus the costs. We would suggest that it probably isn’t a good idea for those who also have other conditions which could be made worse by its use, or using it too regularly. We believe that clinical cannabis drugs should be available on all public healthcare systems to those who need them.