Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that impacts the lives of 2.8 million people across the globe. In Canada, the prevalence of MS is one of the highest reported in the world.
The disease attacks the protective covering of the nerves (called myelin), causing inflammation resulting from the damage. This can interrupt the healthy flow of nerve impulses, inhibiting communication from the pain to the spinal cord as well as the body, resulting in symptoms including:
- Speech and swallowing issues
- Numbness or pain
- Loss of balance
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Vision issues
There are multiple treatments for MS that are intended to either slow the progression of the disease or at least manage the symptoms. One of those therapies include the use of medical cannabis, which has slowly been gaining traction for those suffering with MS.
According to the MS Society of Canada, a recently published survey showed that more than 90 per cent of respondents have considered cannabis to manage their MS, have used it to treat MS, or have spoken to their healthcare provider about cannabis.
Research into the use of medical cannabis is still ongoing, but the MS Society of Canada does offer good insight into its potential uses:
“Cannabinoids activate receptors located throughout the body involved in processes such as pain, mood, memory, and appetite. The cannabis plant contains over 100 cannabinoids, however, two of the most notable ones are Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).” – MS Society of Canada
What are some of the potential uses for medical cannabis when it comes to treating the symptoms of MS?
Spasticity causes individuals to experience spasms and stiffness as a result of damaged nerves responsible for managing movement. These painful bouts of muscle stiffness and spasms can inhibit the ability to walk, sit, or otherwise participate in regular daily activities. The potential use for THC to alleviate spasticity was put to the test in a 2012 survey conducted. The Multiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis (MUSEC) was a clinical trial that involved 279 individuals suffering with MS. Each of the participants were randomized to receive an oral cannabis extract or a placebo for 12 weeks.
At the conclusion of the trial, researchers discovered that the group taking THC reported almost twice as much relief from spasticity when compared to those who consumed the placebo.
George Scorsis, executive chairman of Entourage Health Corp., has led companies in highly regulated industries such as the energy drink sector and now the medical cannabis industry. Entourage Health Corps focus is providing medical cannabis to to the largest Labour Union in Canada as an effective method to displace opiates. Cannabis has proven to not only be effective in treating pain and also doesn’t come with the harmful effects of opiates.
The advancements of medical cannabis for the treatment and management of disease is something Scorsis truly believes in.
“Breakthroughs in the medical cannabis space are happening as we speak,” says Scorsis. “Medical cannabis has been used to treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions. The more research industry leaders do, the more I feel we’ll see it implemented into traditional medicine.”
The majority of MS sufferers will experience pain at some point during their condition. In most cases, discomfort occurs as either neuropathic pain (like burning or shooting sensations) or musculoskeletal pain.
Cannabis is well known for having pain-relieving properties and is used for multiple conditions to manage the symptom. While research is still out on whether or not cannabis is effective for pain relief, it has been proven that THC and cannabidiol (and other cannabinoids) are believed to have synergistic effects that promote pain relief.
Bojana Petkovic, project manager of LoudCloudHealth.com, a group of medicinal cannabis enthusiasts, wrote an article on the effectiveness of medical cannabis for treating fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia comes with symptoms such as musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep and mood issues and more.
In an interview with mondaq.com, Petkovic praised the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
“I’d say that one of the best things about cannabis is its versatility. Namely, you could be taking it for instant pain relief, but also, it’s got antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that will help you feel less anxious, or deal with your allergies,” said Petkovic. “Then, there are its neuroprotective qualities, which are very interesting for seniors and dementia prevention.”
The Cannabis Act came into effect on Oct. 17, 2018, shifting the stigma around cannabis for the better. Now that the substance is legal, more Canadians are curious about the potential medicinal benefits and therapeutic applications of cannabis.
If you struggle with MS and are curious about medical cannabis as a treatment, speak to your healthcare provider.