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When you have multiple sclerosis, it’s a good idea to have different tools to manage MS symptoms. CBD is a cannabidiol, a chemical compound made from the cannabis plant that has been studied and used by many as an effective way of managing chronic pain.
If you’re wondering if this treatment could be beneficial for your MS symptoms, you’re not alone. A 2017 National Multiple Sclerosis Society survey showed that 66% of those with MS were using cannabis to manage their symptoms.
Studies and MS Symptom Management
FIRST TIME READERS: Cannabinoids such as THC & CBD and terpenes are the main medically active components in cannabis, aka marijuana. For more information on these components and the plant, see our section on the Science of Cannabis.
A good percentage of people with MS try cannabis products at one point in their disease with varying degrees of success.
Recent studies have indicated that there is wide acceptance of cannabis within the MS community. 20–60% of people with MS are currently using cannabis, and 50–90% would consider using it if it were legal and more research was in support of it.
A large study of 630 patients published in 2003 found no objective scientific evidence of a treatment effect on muscle spasticity (stiff to tightened muscles, up to painful and uncontrollable spasms). However, significantly more participants taking either cannabis oil or THC reported improvements in muscle spasms, sleep, burning pain, and spasticity. There was no noted improvement in tremor or bladder symptoms.
A 2007 study showed that cannabis was rated significantly more effective than placebo in relieving spasticity. The implication of these studies is that marijuana makes patients feel better, even if it doesn’t show any objective improvement.
A later British study showed THC can improve walking time. There was no improvement on any other mobility test. Also, investigators noted there were fewer relapses in the cannabis treatment groups.
More recent studies using the standardized cannabis medicine Sativex showed reduced spasticity and pain in people with MS. Treatment with standardized oral extract relieved muscle stiffness. The proportion of participants experiencing relief was almost twice as large in the treatment group as in the placebo group, especially for muscle spasm. People with MS can sometimes reduce their need for the prescription medication Baclofen with cannabis use. There are also mixed reports about its effect on urinary incontinence and urge in MS patients.
Each person is unique, and with the availability of such a wide range of products CBD, THC, and mixed products, cannabis is something that many people with MS are using to find some additional relief.
The Facts of Multiple Sclerosis
No one with MS needs a primer on their condition. But Three Wells is about our overall wellness, so consider this a good way to learn what other members of our community may be going through.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, debilitating autoimmune disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is a medical condition that corrupts the nerves of the central nervous system. These nerves are covered in a protective sheath, called myelin. In MS, the sheaths become inflamed and damaged, leaving the underlying nerve exposed and vulnerable to scarring — known as plaques. The plaques create a “short circuit” in the nerve, which results in a dysfunctional transmission.
MS is a chronic condition lasting the course of a person’s life. Many treatments lack longevity, and are sometimes not as effective as desired. Often the side effects of medications outweigh usefulness of the medications. The long term treatment course of MS involves periods of exacerbation and periods of remission. The goal of treating MS symptoms is to promote remissions, reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms to optimize the quality of life.
What CBD Products are Right For You?
Most people with MS use medical marijuana to treat MS symptoms, not to treat the disease. Muscle spasticity is a common complaint. To reduce a medicine such as Baclofen, you may need high doses of a CBD or THC product: up to 25 mg per dose of an edible, or tincture 3x/day. More THC in the mix will produce more psychoactive effects, which is fine for some. Ratios of CBD/THC up to 20:1 will relax muscles.
Many people with MS prefer to smoke or vape cannabis. This can bring instantaneous change: in mood, energy, perception, and reduced pain. You can experiment with different strains to find ones that contribute to your quality of life.
For ideas on how CBD products can help with sleeplessness related to MS, see the Three Wells article on CBD for Insomnia.
In the rare case that cannabis is used to potentially treat the disease as a form of neuroprotectant and antioxidant, the dose might be 25mg 3x/day of a CBD/THC 1:1 edible, CBD oil, or tincture.
- Collina C, Davies P, Mutibokoc IK, Ratcliffe S. Randomized controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. European Journal of Neurology. 2007, 14: 290–296.
- Rudroff T, Honce JM. Cannabis and multiple sclerosis—the way forward. Frontiers in Neurology. 2017, 8: 299
- Zajicek J, Fox P, Sanders H, et al. Cannabinoids for treatment of spasticity and other symptoms related to multiple sclerosis (CAMS study): multicentre randomized placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet. 2003, 362: 1517e26.
- Zajicek JP, Hobart JC, Slade A, Barnes D, Mattison PG. Multiple sclerosis and extract of cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 2012, 83: 1125–1132.