Multiple Sclerosis Effectively Treated With Marijuana Extract

By Amir Khan on October 11, 2012 11:06 AM EDT

Marijuana
The distinctive five-leaf structure of a marijuana plant is seen as it grows in a medical marijuana center in Denver (Photo: Reuters)

An extract made from an active ingredient in marijuana may be able to help patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a new study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Researchers gave 279 patients with multiple sclerosis in the U.K. either a tablet that contained tetrahydrocannabinol, an active ingredient in marijuana, or a placebo. The doses of the active drug were increased gradually, up to 25 milligrams.

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After 10 weeks of use, 30 percent of the patients taking tetrahydrocannabinol reported less muscle stiffness, compared to 16 percent in the placebo group. In addition, the marijuana patients reported less pain, fewer muscle spasms and better sleep than the placebo group.

However, the marijuana group did experience several side effects, including nausea and dizziness.

Many people with multiple sclerosis already turn to marijuana to relieve their symptoms, and if this pill could get off the ground, it could allow MS patients to do so without fear of legal repercussions in states where medical marijuana is illegal.

"Current symptomatic therapy often provides inadequate relief and may be limited by toxicity," John Peter Zajicek, study author, told RTT News. "As a consequence, people with MS have experimented with many alternative therapies to ease their physical problems, including cannabis."

In the United States, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which means it "has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision." However, medical marijuana is legal in 19 states.

Approximately 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis, according to the National MS Society. Symptoms include tingling, loss of balance, muscle weakness, slurred speech and cognitive difficulties.

"The study met its primary objective to demonstrate the superiority of cannabis extract over placebo in the treatment of muscle stiffness in MS," the authors wrote in the study. "No new safety concerns were observed." 

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