Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University's Multiple Sclerosis Center who examined many complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies for the treatment of multiple sclerosis have concluded that cannabinoid medicines provide relief from spasticity, pain, and urinary frequency. However, evidence documenting the effectiveness of smoked marijuana on multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms is still uncertain.

Dr. Vijayshree Yadav, lead author of the study that appears in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, explained that the researchers looked at “29 different therapies included in the guideline,” and that “nineteen studies looked at cannabis.” Other treatments examined included gingko biloba, reflexology, low-fat diet, bee venom, and magnetic therapy. Other than cannabis, Dr. Yadav stated, “there is little evidence for the effectiveness of most CAM therapies to treat MS.”

The first cannabinoid medicine, oral cannabis extracts (OCE) containing both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), were “established as effective for reducing patient-reported spasticity symptoms and pain.” Researchers also noted “THC is probably effective for reducing patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain.”

Researchers also examined studies of GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex, a spray administered under the tongue containing 2.7mg THC and 2.5mg CBD. Studies showed it was “probably effective for improving subjective spasticity symptoms, pain, and urinary frequency.”

There were only two studies to review on smoked cannabis. One study did find “spasticity reduction in the cannabis group” and that “pain, the secondary outcome measure, also improved.” However, the researchers found that “data are inadequate to determine the safety or efficacy of smoked cannabis used for spasticity/pain…”

Dr. Yadav also noted that they “did not find evidence to show [whether] the therapies interact with prescription MS drugs.”  When it comes to the OCE, THC, and Sativex, the researchers found “cannabinoids were generally well tolerated…” and “no significant laboratory, hematologic, urologic, or cardiac changes, or differences in vital signs, were noted” between cannabinoid subjects and those receiving placebos. The most common adverse effects included “dizziness, somnolence, drowsiness, lightheadedness, memory disturbance, (and) difficulty concentrating.”

Multiple sclerosis is an approved qualifying condition under the laws of all twenty whole-plant medical marijuana states and the District of Columbia, though language varies from directly listing multiple sclerosis to generally covering seizure and spasticity disorders. More research on whole plant cannabis is needed to convince the doctors, but the patients are already sold on medical marijuana’s effectiveness.

Still, after all these recent bills touting the benefits of CBD, it’s nice to read something positive about THC.