Survey: Cannabis Use by Patients with Multiple Sclerosis Associated with Reductions in Need for Prescription Medicines

Derby, CT: The majority of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who consume medical cannabis report that it offsets symptoms of the disease and that it also reduces their need for prescription medications, according to survey data published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders

A team of investigators affiliated with the Yale University-Griffin Prevention Research Center conducted structured surveys with 115 MS patients regarding their use of cannabis. Respondents were most likely to report that cannabis was effective in reducing symptoms of pain, insomnia, muscle cramps and spasms, as well as improving mood. 

Consistent with studies of other patient populations, “a significant proportion of respondents” reported having either “stopped or reduced” their use of prescription medications after finding cannabis to be more effective for symptom management. In particular, patients frequently reported reducing or ceasing their use of “opioids, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxers and other pain medications” – a finding that is also consistent with other studies

Authors concluded: “MCU [medical cannabis use] among PWMS [patients with MS] can lead to the reduction or discontinuation of several categories of prescription medications for symptoms of MS. Persons reporting the most benefit from MCU tended to have a milder form of MS with less disability. … This study confirms the benefit of cannabis in several common MS symptoms, extending these findings to show that benefit can be related to baseline severity of some symptoms.”

The medicinal use of cannabis is relatively common among people with MS, with an estimated one-in-five patients reporting current use. A marijuana plant-derived oral extract drug, Sativex, is approved for the treatment of MS-related spasticity in a number of countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. It is not approved in the United States

Full text of the study, “Patterns of medical cannabis use among patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,” appears in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. Additional information regarding cannabinoids and MS is available from NORML.