Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a pernicious and incurable central nervous system disease with which millions of people suffer every day. The disease causes the body’s immune system to attack the insulating cover of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, like the plastic covering of a wire being eroded over time. With this erosion comes to a host of problems for people with the condition, and cannabis can be used to alleviate many of the symptoms.
One of the worst symptoms of MS is the pain that it causes to the entire body; often so extreme it can become debilitating. A study found that cannabis used to treat “Multiple Sclerosis related pain” was much more effective than a placebo. Another study concurred, adding that cannabis-based medicine did not have any serious side effects to speak of. Being able to manage otherwise severe pain means sufferers can more easily travel, work, or just enjoy their leisure time.
Along with this pain comes a collection of other symptoms, one of which is a sense of urinary urgency and incontinence (being prone to accidents). A study found that patients felt cannabis use helped them with these issues. More experimentally, the researchers found that cannabis was able to stop the contractions of a mouse bladder brought on by electric stimulation. This shows the ability of cannabis to prevent the bladder from ‘misfiring,’ which in turn helps MS patients live accident-free.
MS also causes bowel problems in the majority of patients, with about half suffering from constipation. With constipation comes a loss of appetite, and that’s where cannabis, with its reputation for giving users “the munchies,” comes in handy. Cannabis is ubiquitously recognised as the perfect appetite-inducer, and getting the requisite nutrition is essential for MS patients to stay as healthy as possible.
Cannabinoids, the chemicals found in cannabis, have a diverse range of effects on the body. One of these is the ability to combat inflammation. Given that MS’s mode of attack is an inflammatory response (i.e., the body attacking itself), this property of cannabis alleviates symptoms of the disease at its core by stopping the damage happening to the nerve cells altogether. Some cannabinoids found in the plant also help protect neurons. For a disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, any added protection is of obvious benefit.
MS also causes frequent and often painful muscle spasms. Perhaps the most effective use of cannabis for MS, a study showed that cannabis used to treat MS-related muscle spasms wastwice as effective at reducing spasticity as a placebo. This, combined with cannabis’s renowned ability to make users feel more sleepy, also helps MS sufferers both fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer, giving their body the rest they need to recuperate.
One team of researchers spoke to MS patients themselves to see how they view the effects of cannabis on their disease, and the results are telling. They found that a significant majority, 72%, were for legalizing the plant for medicinal purposes based on how effective it is in personally treating their illness. Respondents noted that cannabis helped them with a wide array of symptoms including depression. It should come as no surprise that combating this disease takes an emotional toll on sufferers, and any medicine used to ease the burden should be seen as a boon.
Arguably most importantly, substituting cannabis in as a treatment for MS allows patients to discontinue use of other drugs that may have more harmful side effects than the comparatively innocuous drawbacks of consuming cannabis.