Cannabis may ease multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms such as muscle spasms, pain and lack of sleep, according to a new review by researchers at the Saint James School of Medicine.
In the paper, published in the journal Biomedicines, researchers reviewed 28 studies on MS and cannabis over the past 15 years and found that while there’s evidence that weed helps lower severity of symptoms from MS in mice and showed some positive results in humans, more research on its effectiveness is needed.
Half of the studies analyzed looked at mice while the other half were human trials. Most human trials used the patented cannabinoid extract nabiximols sold under the Sativex brand, while mice were injected with THC or CBD.
Studies on mice showed that cannabinoid treatments lower the severity of the disease, alleviating hindlimb stiffness, facilitating recovery, improving motor function, strengthening anti-inflammatory responses and protecting the brain by reducing neuronal damage.
“In several of the studies, animals responded to treatments with single agents, either CBD alone or THC alone, which have been previously shown to have suboptimal effects and less tolerability in humans,” explain the researchers in the study.
Nine of the human trials tested the effect of cannabis on muscle spasms, and a significant number of reports showed weed helped reduced them even after a one-year follow-up.
The other five studies tested cannabis on pain, and saw that pain was reduced significantly four weeks after starting the treatment.
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Studies done between 2007–2021 showed that add-on therapy with cannabinoid spray mixtures with equal concentrations of CBD and THC is effective in improving “subjective measures of spasticity, pain, and bladder- and sleep-related quality of life in responders within weeks of starting treatment,” the researchers explain.
Studies found that benefits were maintained beyond six to 12 months, but some effects may wane with prolonged cannabis use.
The researchers recommend further studies on the long-term effects of cannabinoid therapy on the progression of MS.
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