While the debate over medical marijuana continues to rage across the United States, a British study has recently discovered that an extract of the plant may be able to assist those who are suffering from multiple sclerosis. As many people with MS suffer from debilitating muscle stiffness, the hope is that the extract can help those with MS to live a more normal life. While you probably won’t read about marijuana treatments in a traditional multiple sclerosis book, this shocking study may just change the way you view marijuana’s health benefits for good.
The study involved 300 participants, all of whom have multiple sclerosis, from 22 MS treatment centers around the United Kingdom. Participants were randomly selected to either receive a placebo or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that has been shown to have health benefits. Tetrahydrocannabinol is also considered to be the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and for the purposes of this study, the extract was offered in pill form and not smoked.
The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry reports that participants were given increasingly higher doses of either the placebo or the tetrahydrocannabinol as the two-week study was underway, beginning with five milligrams to start and continuing on to doses as high as 25 milligrams. Participants were also given maintenance doses for 10 weeks after the initial two weeks concluded in order to examine long-term effects and to avoid the possibility of withdrawal symptoms.
After the 12 weeks of medication, participants who were given doses of tetrahydrocannabinol were found to have less muscle stiffness at a rate of 30 percent, while those who received the placebo only reported less stiffness at a rate of 16 percent. Participants who received the tetrahydrocannabinol also reported noticing the positive health effects of the drug after only four weeks of use in some cases, and they also reported fewer muscle spasms and improved quality of sleep. Finally, patients who were given the tetrahydrocannabinol also reported less pain, even if they had been suffering with chronic pain for years.
Hope for the Future
According to University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom researcher John Peter Zajicek, the findings of the study suggest that tetrahydrocannabinol may be a viable alternative to traditional MS treatments, many of which are considered to be ineffectual for many sufferers. Additionally, he suggests that the drug may be beneficial for others who are experiencing muscle problems and chronic pain.
Regarding side effects, the study only documented known side effects of tetrahydrocannabinol use, including confusion, fatigue and dry mouth. Additionally, some participants also experienced sleepiness, nausea and difficulty concentrating. As with other studies involving marijuana or derivatives of marijuana, these side effects are only temporary and most are considered harmless.