Researchers and professional proponents of medical marijuana generally agree that cannabis is useful in controlling pain in patients with MS and a wide variety of other conditions. But there are a number of studies that suggest cannabis may provide relief from other symptoms of MS, as well.
The largest study pertaining to cannabis and MS, undertaken in 2005, involved more than 600 subjects and the administration of THC extract, in order to examine the medication’s effect on spasticity, a common symptom of MS.2
Unfortunately, the study did not provide much evidence of improvement in the muscular stiffness it was intended to improve, though many patients were satisfied with the treatment for its other benefits. As well, some patients were able to walk a pre-specified distance in a shorter time, following the study.
A 2009 review, however, discusses the results of a double blind, controlled trial in which five of six patients found CBD and THC extracts promoted improved mobility and decreased spasticity, with only mild, tolerable side effects.2
In 2013, another study of the effect of cannabis extract on MS spasticity showed considerable improvement following treatment. In addition, some subjects found their sleep quality improved and pain diminished. Side effects of the treatment were relatively mild.3
An earlier, 2008 study showed promise for cannabis treatment of MS as well. Patients had reduced pain and spasticity from inhaled cannabis. This study also found that one in two people with MS use cannabis to treat symptoms.
A more recent study (2014) also involved smoked marijuana. Because MS can affect cognition, and marijuana is known to as well, researchers were curious as to the effect of inhaled marijuana on the brains of patients with MS.
Unfortunately, the results showed those patients with MS who had smoked cannabis recently had abnormal brain activity and performed basic cognitive tasks less well than those who had not used the substance. Whether this study implied that marijuana in general, or smoked marijuana specifically, impairs brain function was not immediately clear. 3
While the results of the research regarding cannabis and multiple sclerosis are far from unassailable, they do serve to highlight the need for further research to determine the full potential of cannabis in treating multiple sclerosis. Organizations such as the National MS Society agree that further study is required and advisable.3
Review our Medical Benefits section to learn more about how this natural medicine affects the body and aids numerous conditions and symptoms.