Study: Multiple Sclerosis Patients Respond Favorably to Cannabis, Reduce Their Opioid Intake

Buffalo, NY: Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience significant improvements in their symptoms following the initiation of cannabis, according to data published in the International Journal of MS Care.

A team of investigators affiliated with the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo reviewed the medical records of 141 MS patients authorized to access state-legal medical cannabis products. Data was collected from patients over the course of one to four follow-up appointments following their initiation of cannabis therapy. Most patients in the study (65 percent) consumed tinctures consisting of a one-to-one ratio of THC to CBD.

The study’s authors reported, “The results of this study indicate that use of MC [medical cannabis] to alleviate symptoms of MS is largely efficacious, with improvement in pain (72 percent of patients), muscle spasticity (48 percent of patients), and sleep disturbance (40 percent of patients) frequently reported.”

They further acknowledged: “More than half of opioid users at baseline were able to [either] discontinue or decrease [their] opioid use after starting MC. The mean daily MME [morphine milligram equivalents] was significantly reduced from the initial visit (51 mg) to the last follow-up visit (40 mg). This is consistent with previous literature showing that MC legalization is associated with decreased opioid use and that MC use is associated with decreased opioid use in patients with chronic pain. These findings indicate that MC may represent an alternative analgesic to opioids for some patients.”

Investigators concluded: “The present findings support the current literature findings that cannabis products have a positive impact in the treatment of several MS-related symptoms. … Prospective studies of the effects of MC on MS symptoms and opioid use would be beneficial, and, ultimately, could influence future legislation as it pertains to the legalization of MC in the United States.”

Surveys find that MS patients frequently turn to cannabis for purposes of self-medication, and some longitudinal studies suggest that cannabinoids can slow down MS disease progression.

Numerous clinical trials have shown that the use of a proprietary cannabis-plant extract containing equal ratios of THC and CBD (nabiximols a/k/a Sativex) is safe and effective in the treatment of MS symptoms, and several countries – including Canada, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom – have approved it as a prescription drug.

Full text of the study, “Multiple sclerosis and use of medical cannabis: A retrospective review of a neurology outpatient population,” appears in the International Journal of MS Care. Additional information on cannabis and MS is available from NORML’s publication, Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids.