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therapeutic

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 14, 2012

    Is it any wonder that the US government fights tooth-and-nail to hinder researchers’ attempts to conduct clinical trials assessing the therapeutic utility of cannabis as a medicine? After all, each and every time the federal government begrudgingly allows for such studies they’re faced with credibility-shattering results like this:

    Marijuana relieves muscles tightness, pain of multiple sclerosis: Study
    via the Toronto Star

    Smoking marijuana can relieve muscle tightness, spasticity (contractions) and pain often experienced by those with multiple sclerosis, says research out of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

    The findings, just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, included a controlled trial with 30 participants to understand whether inhaled cannabis would help complicated cases where existing pharmaceuticals are ineffective or trigger adverse side effects.

    MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord.

    The disease attacks the myelin, the protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the central nervous system, and — among other symptoms — can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis.

    The average age of the research participants was 50 years with 63 per cent of the study population female.

    More than half the participants needed walking aids and 20 per cent used wheelchairs.

    Rather than rely on self-reporting by patients regarding their muscle spasticity — a subjective measure — health professionals rated each patient’s joints on the modified Ashworth scale, a common objective tool to evaluate intensity of muscle tone.

    The researchers found that the individuals in the group that smoked cannabis experienced an almost one-third decrease on the Ashworth scale — 2.74 points from a baseline score of 9.3 — meaning spasticity improved, compared to the placebo group.

    As well, pain scores decreased by about 50 per cent.

    We saw a beneficial effect of smoked cannabis on treatment-resistant spasticity and pain associated with multiple sclerosis among our participants,” says Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom of the university’s department of neuroscience.

    To those familiar with medicinal cannabis research, the results are hardly surprising. After all, Sativex — an oral spray containing plant cannabis extracts — is already legal by prescription to treat MS-related symptoms in over a dozen countries, including Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Spain. Further, long-term assessments of the drug indicate that in addition to symptom management, cannabinoids may also play a role in halting the course of the disease.

    Nevertheless, the National MS Society — like the US government — shares little enthusiasm for cannabis medicine, stating, “Studies completed thus far have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana or its derivatives provide substantiated benefits for symptoms of MS.”

    Patient advocacy organizations, like the MS Society, have a responsibility to represent the interests of their constituents and to advise practitioners regarding best treatment practices. Why then does this responsibility not extend to patients who use cannabis as an alternative treatment therapy or to those that might one day potentially benefit from its use?