May 16, 2012

Smoked Cannabis Relieves Tightness in MS Patients

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — A new study finds that smoked cannabis can provide relief from pain and muscular tightness - otherwise known as spasticity — in people with multiple sclerosis at the risk of adverse cognitive effects.

Spasticity causes patients with multiple sclerosis to suffer from muscular tightness that is difficult to control, often uncomfortable and disabling. Spasticity can be relieved by some drugs, but they can have adverse effects and often do not always improve the condition.

Most studies focus on the effect of oral cannabis, but this trial focused on the effects of smoked cannabis. They study was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and consisted of a randomized double-blinded controlled trial with 30 participants. The participants all had spasticity that did not respond well to existing treatment, had an average age of 50 years, and were 63% female. More than half needed a walking aid, and 20% used wheelchairs.

When measuring the results, the researchers used the modified Ashworth scale to evaluate the intensity of their muscle tone rather than relying on the subjective method of self-reporting. The smoked cannabis group experienced an almost one-third decrease on the scale denoting an improvement in spasticity, and the pain scores decreased by about 50%.

Despite the beneficial improvement in pain relief, the patients in the smoked cannabis group experienced negative, short-term cognitive effects compared with the placebo group after performing an addition test requiring focused attention.

The authors were quoted as saying, "Larger, long-term studies are needed to confirm our findings and determine whether lower doses can result in beneficial effects with less cognitive impact."

Source: CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), May 2012