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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Cannabis Relief for MS

Smoked cannabis may be an effective treatment for spasticity—the spasms, or involuntary muscle activity that are common and disabling symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). A placebo-controlled study of 30 adult MS patients at the UC San Diego School of Medicine has also resulted in a reduced perception of pain.

Principal investigator Jody Corey-Bloom, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurosciences and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center, and her colleagues randomly assigned participants to either the intervention group (which smoked cannabis once daily for three days) or the control group (which smoked identical placebo cigarettes, also once a day for three days). After an 11-day interval, the participants crossed over to the other group.

There had been anecdotal reports from MS patients who endorsed smoking marijuana to relieve symptoms of spasticity. Earlier studies also suggested that the active compounds of medical marijuana called cannabinoids were potentially effective in treating neurologic conditions when administered orally.

This study is the fifth clinical test of the possible efficacy of cannabis for clinical use reported by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), the only place in the United States conducting controlled,
scientific clinical trials using smoked cannabis. Four other human studies on control of neuropathic pain—chronic pain caused by damage to the nervous system—also reported positive results.

—Debra Kain