The use of medical cannabis for neurological disorders has been a topic of debate for many years. In recent years, there has been an increase in research on the potential benefits of cannabis for various neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS). The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has recently released a statement regarding the use of medical cannabis for neurological disorders, which sheds light on the current evidence and the position of the AAN on this topic.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause a wide range of symptoms, including muscle spasms, fatigue, pain, and cognitive impairment. The cause of MS is still unknown, but it is thought to be related to genetics and environmental factors.
There is no cure for MS, but various treatments can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. However, these treatments may not work for everyone and may have side effects that can be difficult to manage. This is one of the reasons why some people with MS are turning to medical cannabis as an alternative treatment option.
The AAN’s Position on Medical Cannabis Use for Neurological Disorders
The AAN’s position statement on medical cannabis use for neurological disorders states that “the use of medical cannabis should be reserved for patients who have failed standard therapy.” The statement goes on to say that “medical cannabis should not be used as a first-line treatment for any neurological disorder.”
The AAN’s position is based on a review of current evidence on the use of medical cannabis for neurological disorders. The review found that there is limited evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis for certain neurological conditions, such as spasticity in MS patients. However, there is insufficient evidence to support its use for other conditions, such as epilepsy.
The AAN also recommends that physicians who choose to prescribe medical cannabis follow state laws and regulations regarding its use. Physicians should also discuss the potential risks and benefits with their patients before prescribing medical cannabis and monitor them closely for any adverse effects.
Research on Cannabis and MS
Research on the use of cannabis for MS has been ongoing for many years. One study published in the European Journal of Neurology found that a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex reduced spasticity in MS patients compared to a placebo. Another study published in the journal CMAJ found that smoked cannabis reduced spasticity in MS patients compared to a placebo.
However, other studies have found mixed results on the use of cannabis for MS symptoms. For example, a study published in the journal Neurology found that smoking cannabis did not significantly reduce tremors in MS patients. Another study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that cannabinoids did not significantly reduce spasticity in MS or paraplegia patients.
Despite these mixed results, many people with MS report using cannabis to manage their symptoms. A survey of participants in the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) registry found that 25% of respondents reported using cannabis to manage their symptoms. Of those who used it, 77% reported it was moderately or very effective.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
While some people with MS may find relief from their symptoms with medical cannabis, it is important to note that there are potential risks and side effects associated with its use. Some of these include:
– Impaired memory and concentration
– Dry mouth
– Increased appetite
– Mood changes
– Impaired motor skills
It is also important to note that smoking cannabis can be harmful to lung health, especially for individuals with respiratory issues.
The AAN’s position statement on medical cannabis use for neurological disorders emphasizes the need for more research on this topic and cautions against its use as a first-line treatment option. While there is some evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis for certain neurological conditions, more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks.
Individuals with MS who are considering using medical cannabis should discuss its potential risks and benefits with their healthcare provider. They should also follow state laws and regulations regarding its use and monitor any potential side effects closely.