medical testimonies database contains 19 testimonies from cannabis users with Multiple Sclerosis
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1995 Mills reviewed all the scientific evidence of MS treatment using cannabis,
and discussed all the surrounding issues. He concluded that the evidence is sparse
and of poor quality and that a proper clinical trial of smoked cannabis for MS,
was needed. Dr Roger Pertwee of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Aberdeen
University wants to carry out such a study. Unfortunately he still needs proper
funding and a source of legal cannabis.
biological basis for the relief of MS symptoms was found in a review article by
Growing et al (1998) who noted that the distribution of the brain's cannabinoid
receptors is such that they are probably somehow involved in the control of movement.
The same article suggested that cannabinoids could have an effect on the immune-system
cause of the illness, and as such it is feasible that cannabis could additionally
even slow the progress of MS in potential sufferers.
1997 Dr Pertwee, along with Consroe et al (1997). carried out a survey of MS patients
who are using cannabis to see how cannabis helped their condition. The patients
reported that cannabis helped the following conditions: spasticity, chronic pain
of extremities, acute paroxysmal phenomenon, tremor, emotional dysfunction, anorexia/weight
loss, fatigue states, double vision, sexual dysfunction, bowel and bladder dysfunctions,
vision dimness, dysfunctions of walking and balance, and memory loss (these results
are ranked in order, 97% of the patients said cannabis helped the first condition,
spasticity, down to 30% reporting the last condition, memory loss.
et al (1994) conducted a study on both MS and non-MS sufferers. The 10 MS patients
all felt that smoking cannabis improved their condition significantly. Some impairment
was found in the posture and balance of both MS and non-MS patients however.
there has never been a clinical trial of MS patients, that used smoked herbal
cannabis, there is some direct evidence of cannabis' effect on tremor. Both Clifford
(1983) and Meinck et al (1989) reported that cannabis reduced tremors and provided
graphic evidence of this, in the form of before and after tremor recordings and
handwriting samples. Meinck et al found that smoking cannabis 'acutely improved'
their patient's condition. Dell'Osso et al (2000) did a study on one MS patient,
and found that inhaled cannabis had several positive effects.
the 80's there were three trials of oral synthetic THC in small numbers of MS
patients. All were placebo-controlled, and involved various doses of THC from
2.5 to 15 mg daily. Many of the patients claimed to get a beneficial effect from
THC, but the doctors, looking on objectively could find no effect in most of them
- perhaps cannabis has a psychological benefit rather than a muscular one. Petro
and Ellenberger (1981) found that THC improved spasticity compared with placebo,
and that half their 8 patients had a 'substantial' improvement. Clifford (1983)
found that 7 of his 9 patients claimed a benfefit, but doctors could only confirm
that 2 patients had benefited. Ungerleider et al (1987) studied 13 patients with
MS that proved untreatable with standard drugs. Although the patients said their
spasticity had improved significantly, the doctors could noat spot an improvement.
Large THC doses were poorly tolerated by the patients, with weakness, dry mouth,
dizziness and psychoactive effects the common complaints - interestingly none
of the patients asked to keep a supply of THC after the trial ended.
recent letter in the Lancet from Martyn et al (1995) reports the synthetic cannabinoid,
nabilone being of benefit in a single patient study. Weeks of placebo and nabilone
were alternated, and muscle spasm, general well-being and sleep all improved when
nabilone was given.
is also evidence from animal experiments. EAE is an artificial disease that has
been used as a laboratory model of MS in guinea pigs. Lyman et al. reported that
when animals were exposed to the disease and treated with a placebo, they all
developed severe EAE and 98% died. The animals that were treated with THC had
no or mild symptoms and 95% survived.
animal model of MS, experimental allergic encephalomyelitits was studied by Baker
et al (2000). They found that cannabinoids reduced spasticity and tremor in mice.
A reduction in MS symptoms was also noted by Achiron et al (2000) when animals
were treated with a synthetic cannabinoid, Dexanabinol.
Consroe (1998) and Grinspoon and Bakalar (1993) have reviewed much evidence, including
a large body of reported anecdotal evidence. Whilst not a definitive answer to
the problems of spasticity in MS patients, they were convinving enough to make
a report from the Institutes of Medicine (1999) suggest that further 'carefuly
designed clinical trials testing the effects cannabinoids on muscle spasticity
should be considered'. A National Institutes of Health Workshop concurred, claiming
that the effect that cannabis has on spasticity and pain resulting from nerve
damage was such that it could be used in an adjunctive role in future treatments
A. et al (2000) Dexanabinol (HU-211) effect on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis:
implications for the treatment of acute relapses of multiple sclerosis. Journal
of Neuroimmunology 102: 26-31.
D. et al (2000) Cannabinoids control spasticity and tremor in a multiple sclerosis
model, Nature 404: 84-87.
D.B. (1983) Tetrahydrocannabinol for tremor in multiple sclerosis. Annal. Neurology
P., Musty, R., Rein, J., Tillery, W., and Pertwee, R. (1997) The perceived effects
of smoked cannabis on patients with multiple sclerosis. European Neurology
38 (1) 44-48.
P. (1998). Clinical and Experimental Reports of Marijuana and Cannabinoids
in Spastic Disorders.
L. et al (2000) Suppression of pendular nystagmus by smoking cannabis in a patient
with multiple sclerosis. Neurology 54: 2190-2193.
Greenberg H.S., Werness S.A.S., Pugh J.E., et al. (1994) Short-term effects of
smoking marijuana on balance in patients with multiple sclerosis and normal volunteers.
Clinical Pharmacology Ther. 55 324-328.
L, Bakalar JB. (1993) Marijuana, the forbidden medicine. New Haven: Yale
L. et al (1998) Therapeutic use of cannabis: clarifying the debate, Drug and Alcohol
Review 17: 445-452.
of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (1998) Science and Technology
- Ninth report. Science and Technology Committee Publications, UK.
of Medicine (1999) Marijuana and medicine: Assessing the science base.
National Academy Press
W.D., Sonett J.R., Brosnan C.F., Elkin R. and Bornstein M.B. (1989) Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol:
A novel treatment for experimental autoimmune encphalitis. J. Neuroimmunology
C.N., Illis L.S., & Thom J. (1995) Nabilone in the treatment of multiple sclerosis
[letter]. Lancet 345 579.
Meinck, H.M., Schonle, P.W. and Conrad, B. (1989) Effect of cannabinoids on spasticity
and ataxia in multiple sclerosis. J. Neurology 226 120-122.
Institutes of Health (1997) Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana: Report
to the Director. Washington, D.C.
Petro D.J. (1980) Marijuana as a therapeutic agent for muscle spasm or spasticity.
Psychomatics 21 (1) 81-85.
Petro D.J. & Ellenberger C. (1981) Treatment of human spasticity with delta(9)tetrahydrocannabinol.
J. Clinical Pharmacology 21 413S-416S.
Ungerlieder J.T. Andyrsiak T., Fairbanks L. et al. (1987) Delta-9 THC in the treatment
of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Adv. Alc. Substance Abuse
S. (1995) The use of cannabis in multiple sclerosis. The Pharmaceutical Journal
a large collection of research materials, see our research
Youngs ruling - Docket 86-22
The US Drug Enforcement Agency held hearings
in 1987 to determine whether cannabis should be allowed as medicine. Doctors,
nurses, patients and academics testified that they had witnessed people using
cannabis as a medicine sucessfully. A large part of the report is concerned with
multiple sclerosis, and it makes astonishing reading.
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