More MS news articles for July 2000

Marijuana

[I don't usually like to comment on these articles but, as one person put it on ASMS, there are holes in this large enough to drive a truck through. Shame on the NMSS. - Paul]

Some people with MS have claimed that smoking marijuana (cannabis) has reduced MS spasticity. Studies done so far, however, have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana benefits people with MS.

Well known for its mind-altering properties, marijuana is produced from the flowering top of the hemp plant, cannabis sativa. Reports that marijuana reduced MS spasticity led to a small number of clinical trials-studies conducted to see if a promising drug or other medical therapy may actually help people.

The studies explored the role of THC or smoked marijuana in treating spasticity, tremor, and balance control in small numbers of people with MS. Most of these studies have been done with the active ingredient in marijuana THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Because THC can be given by mouth, it is easier to control the dose.

Studies Show Mixed Results and Some Side Effects

For Spasticity

Studies of THC for spasticity have had mixed results. While some people reported feeling looseness and less spasticity, this could not always be confirmed by objective testing done by physicians. Even at its best, effects lasted less than three hours. Side effects, especially at higher doses, included weakness, dry mouth, dizziness, relaxation, mental clouding, short-term memory impairment, space-time distortions, and lack of coordination.

For Tremor

Another small study involved 8 seriously disabled individuals with significant tremor and ataxia-lack of muscle coordination. After taking THC, 2 people reported improvement in tremor that could be confirmed by an examination by a physician and another 3 reported improvement in tremor that could not be confirmed. All 8 patients taking THC experienced a high and 2 reported feelings of discomfort and unease.

For Balance

In another study smoking marijuana was shown to worsen control of posture and balance in 10 people with MS and 10 who did not have MS. All 20 study participants reported feeling high.

National Academy of Science/Institute of Medicine Report  A report issued on March 17, 1999 by the National Academy of Science/Institute of Medicine on the medical uses of marijuana raises fresh issues. While the report concludes that smoked marijuana does not have a role in the treatment of MS, there is the possibility that specific compounds derived from marijuana may possibly reduce some MS symptoms, particularly MS-related spasticity. Well-designed and controlled studies of the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds are indicated, in conjunction with the development of safe, reliable drug delivery technology.

It is the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Medical Advisory Board that marijuana is not recommended as a treatment for MS. Long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant serious side effects. In addition, other well-tested, FDA-approved drugs are available, such as baclofen and tizanidine, to reduce spasticity in MS.