Smoking Marijuana May Help MS Symptoms, Scientists Say

The study revealed that adult patients who smoked marijuana displayed improved range of motion and experienced up to 50 percent less pain.  

“We found that smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing symptoms and pain in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity, or excessive muscle contractions,” Dr. Corey-Bloom said in a UCSD Health Systems press release dated May 14.

Dr. Corey-Bloom and her colleagues used 30 MS patients for the study. The test subjects were randomly assigned to either the intervention group, which received a marijuana cigarette to smoke daily for three days — or to the control group, which also smoked an identical placebo cigarette for three days. 

After eleven days, the participants were crossed over to the other group so that all 30 MS patients eventually smoked marijuana.

However, researchers also reported short-term and adverse effects in cognition, namely the ability to pay attention and concentrate, and increased fatigue among the patients. The press release said that the mild effects on focus and awareness could be a result of smoking the drug instead of the traditional method of orally administered cannabinoids, which have been used in the past. Past studies have shown to effectively treat neurologic conditions using oral intake of cannabis.  

Last May, another similar study was published in the journal of Neurology, in which researchers from the University of Toronto showed that MS patients who smoked marijuana to alleviate symptoms could double the risk of cognitive detriment.

A May 15 article in the San Diego Reader said that researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine are calling for larger, long-term studies. The School of Medicine wants to confirm the recent findings as well as test the effectiveness of lower doses of cannabis. With a lower dose, researchers hope to reduce the negative impact on cognitive function.

In the recent clinical study, participants had a breakdown of 63 percent female, 37 percent male and had an average age of 50 years old. Over half of the participants required aids such as walkers, while 20 percent used wheelchairs.

The University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research funded the research. CMCR said this is the fifth promising study currently underway.

“The study by Corey-Bloom and her colleagues adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis has therapeutic value for selected indications, and may be an adjunct or alternative for patients whose spasticity or pain is not optimally managed,” director of the CMCR, Dr. Igor Grant said in the UCSD Health Systems press release.