About 400,000 people in this country suffer from multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes one's protective coating surrounding nerve fibers to break down. The condition causes chronic pain, motor function fatigue and visual impairment, among other things. It can be a debilitating disease and often prevents people from being able to work.
One complication that can arise is spasticity, when the muscles in arms or legs contract in a painful way. It's described as feeling like a charley horse. Many MS sufferers have said in the past that medical marijuana can help. Now a new study backs up that theory, to a point.
Newly published research shows that smoking marijuana for a few days does seem to help MS patients. However, there were some side effects, leaving some wondering if it's worth it in the long run.
For the study, 30 patients were given either real marijuana or "placebo joints" to smoke. The fake ones contained everything but THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Each patient smoked the real marijuana once per day for three days, and the placebo once a day on three separate days. After each time, an assessor took a look at their spasticity.
Researchers found that the spasticity was lessened when patients smoked real marijuana, but not the placebo cigarettes. However, the patients reported feeling dizzy and fatigued after smoking marijuana. The drugs also slowed down people's mental skills. Since changes in cognitive functioning are a concern for MS sufferers, that suggests that marijuana may not be a good long-term solution. However, long-term effects were not part of the study, so more research may be necessary on this topic.
Source: Reuters, "Marijuana may ease Multiple Sclerosis symptoms," Amy Norton, May 14, 2012
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