CBD oils on display. Photo credit: Jonathan Reyes/flickr.
Currently, there are nearly a million Americans that have multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease where the immune system targets the myelin sheath on nerve fibers of the central nervous system (CNS). Severe enough damage to the nerves can prevent one from being able to walk. Without an existing cure for it, those afflicted by MS focus on mitigating the symptoms. While prescription medicines can slow the disease’s effects, they may not be entirely effective.
This is where cannabis comes into play.
More and more patients with MS have started using cannabis to manage their symptoms. For example, in 2014, the clinical journal, Neurology: Clinical Practice, surveyed 5,481 people with MS about their use of cannabis or cannabinoids. Forty-seven percent of the participants considered using cannabis for the disease and 16% were already taking it. Of those taking cannabis for muscle spasms, 80% of them had found it effective in treatment.
One study conducted by the journal, Brain Sciences, reviewed self reports of well-being by patients with MS, cancer, and arthritis as well as their cannabis use. One major finding by the researchers is that the 135 participants with MS mainly used cannabis for its effectiveness in pain relief and to improve their quality of sleep. Twenty-one of them also cited muscle spasms as a reason they used cannabis.
With March being national MS month, we are examining studies about cannabis use for treatment of some of MS’s symptoms.
Typical Treatment Options of MS
According to JAMA Neurology, there are two ways to treat MS. The first way is using drugs such as Avonex or Betaferon to stop the disease’s progress while also preventing relapses and effects on the patient’s behavior. This is done by making the body reduce excess inflammation from the immune system’s response, which leads to nerve fiber damage. The other method is to improve pain, muscle spasms, and mood changes through medications such as Baclofen and Tizanidine.
In addition to treating such symptoms, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) notes that disease-modifying medications also reduce damage to the brain and spinal cord, minimizing the disabilities resulting from the disease.
Physical therapy is another aspect of treatment to ensure the body works properly, such as proper posture or routine exercise. Maintaining mental health is also important since MS can lead to mood changes. Even a diagnosis can lead to stress.
Cannabinoids for Neuropathic Pain
While different forms of traditional treatment can help sufferers, many are also turning to alternatives.
One common symptom of MS is neuropathic pain. This type of pain is thought to be caused by the disrupted nerve signals to the rest of the body.
In a study by the journal, Molecules, researchers administered 28 MS patients an oromucosal cannabinoid spray for one month, given during two phases. This study aimed to examine the possibility of cannabinoids reducing pain.
Seventy-four percent of patients had initial side effects, like drowsiness, at the end of the first phase, but there was no significant difference between pain scores of the treatment group and baseline scores. However, in the second phase, it showed that the spray was effective in relieving pain scores.
Overall, the results suggest that cannabinoids were an effective method of reducing neuropathic pain in patients with MS.
Muscle spasms, caused by misfiring nerves and contracting muscles, are one of MS’s many symptoms. The MS Society has reported that 40% to 80% of people with MS are affected by this condition.
In research in the PLOS One journal, researchers conducted a study on nabiximols — a THC/CBD oromucosal spray — and its effect on treating MS-related spasticity. Altogether, 297 participants took the nabiximol treatment; researchers then tested changes in spasticity after 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, the participants had dropped an average of 27.6% for their spasticity score. While there were adverse effects from dizziness or fatigue, the researchers concluded nabiximol’s effectiveness in reducing muscle spasms when combined with physiotherapy programs.
Psychedelics in Treatment
One article by the Journal of Neurochemistry points out the importance of oligodendrocytes, or the cells responsible for providing myelin that improves electric signal transmission. These cells play an active role in immune response and neural regeneration.
Many neurodegenerative diseases including MS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and spinal cord injuries affect the activities of these cells.
The cells are extremely vulnerable to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Psychedelics have shown to reduce cytokine secretions that may play a protective role in myelin and oligodendrocyte cell survival. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), certain psychedelics can target Sigma-1 receptors. These receptors are essential in stimulating the body’s production of these cells.
In the journalImmunology Letters, researchers have found that autoimmune disorders affecting the nervous system, such as MS, increase glutamate levels to the point of being toxic to nerve cells. Some psychedelic substances like DMT and 5-MeO-DMT are able to regulate the glutamate levels and receptors. Preventing nerve cells from being exposed to dangerous levels of glutamate can be the key to stopping MS’s effects.
Overall, alternative treatments with different entheogens are becoming more popular. In fact, widespread cannabis use for treating MS has made a stronger case for its legalization in more states. One survey by The Pew Research Center found that 91% of adults supported cannabis for medical use. As more attention is paid to the medical applications of cannabis and other psychoactive substances, research shows their use in learning more about how MS operates.
Can we PLEASE STOP talking about cannabis as a monolithic treatment for ailments because there are many polycultural combinations of medicinal THC/CBD/CBG and many flowers each with their own medicinal value within the context of those “salad bars”/polycultural combinations = we need to select our polycultural combinations and these are NOT monolithic 🙂 Talking about “cannabis” as a monolithic treatment for EVERY disease is misguided and could lead some patients to negative outcomes 🙁 We don’t think of food as a monolith, WHY would anyone consider botanical medicines that express in so many ways as monoliths 🙁 Cannabis is polycultural please 🙂 In addition, 2022 appears to be the year of the Varin and already we have CBDv and soon THCv and CBGv = NOT a monolith please 🙂
Hope this discussion continues 🙂
Please help END VACCINE ADDICTION with WHOLE PLANT botanical medicines 🙂 “Chemical free” to the best of our abilities and without punishing ourselves please 🙂