Matt Potter 6:30 a.m., May 22
Smoking marijuana may be an effective treatment for pain and spasticity experienced by multiple sclerosis patients, the UC San Diego School of Medicine says in a new report.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and led by Jody Corey-Bloom, MD, PhD, a professor of neurosciences and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UCSD, placed 30 adult multiple sclerosis patients into either a study group or placebo control group. One group smoked one marijuana cigarette daily for three days, the other group was given placebos to smoke. After an 11 day interval, the groups were switched, so that all volunteers ingested both cannabis and a placebo.
Sixty-three percent of study participants were women, and over half required the use of devices to assist in walking, with 20 percent using a wheelchair. The average participant age was 50.
“We found that smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing symptoms and pain in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity, or excessive muscle contractions,” Corey-Bloom reports.
Patients reported 50 percent less pain while using marijuana, and tests that “graded the intensity of muscle tone by measuring such things as resistance in range of motion and rigidity” showed marked improvements in the cannabis users.
Though the results were promising, a release from UCSD says that “smoking cannabis did have mild effects on attention and concentration.”
Another study from the medical journal Neurology cited by the Huffington Post found that multiple sclerosis patients who smoke marijuana doubled their risk of developing cognitive impairments.
“Whatever benefits patients feel they might be getting from smoking marijuana might come at the cost of further cognitive compromise,” says Dr. Anthony Feinstein, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, lead researcher on the other study, completed last year.
UCSD researchers are calling for a larger, longer term study to confirm their findings and determine whether a lower cannabis dosage can achieve the desired physical benefits without the impact on cognitive function.