Marijuana: recreation or medication?
In recent years, this has become a much-debated question. However, advocates of the drug's medicinal use have just gained new ground--at least when it comes to multiple sclerosis.
On Thu., Nov. 6, an international medical journal published the results of Dr. John Zajicek's study regarding the effects of cannabis on multiple sclerosis, with commentary from University of Calgary researchers.
"Our findings provide some evidence that cannabinoids [cannabis derivatives] could be clinically useful in treatment of symptoms related to multiple sclerosis," stated Dr. Zajicek, a University of Plymouth researcher.
While Dr. Zajicek's primary findings showed no improvement in muscle spasticity between patients who were given cannabinoids and those who were given a placebo, his results suggested the drug has potential use for improving sleep, mobility, pain and spasms. In commentary written for Dr. Zajicek's article, the U of C's Dr. Luanne Metz and Dr. Stacey Page seem optimistic about the results.
"We now have as much evidence to support the use of these oral cannabinoids... as we do for many standard therapies," read their commentary.
This discovery may be great news for MS patients, who suffer muscle stiffness, spasms, pain, tremors and progressive neurological impairment, as they have often had to rely on treatments with limited effectiveness and unpleasant side effects. However, there are still reservations associated with this optimistic look at pot as a possible solution.
"Doctors only recommend cannabis as a last resort for the treatment of spasticity. Not for other symptoms and not smoked cannabis," said Dr. Metz.
With future research, however, this practice may change. In fact, results of previous studies that claimed cannabinoids could improve MS symptoms are already being bolstered by Dr. Zajicek's research. Future research may also affect the legalities surrounding cannabis use in Canada.
"I hope this study will make it clearly legal to possess and prescribe oral cannabis [Marinol]." said Dr. Metz. "The law is currently unclear."
With regard to upcoming studies, Dr. Metz said Dr. Page has already done research but not clinical trials and there are no plans for the U of C to conduct a follow-up study.
"I haven't heard anything negative about U of C's participation in cannabis-related studies and I've had a few colleagues see the commentary and say that they agree," said Dr. Metz.
Two hundred and seventeen out of every 100,000 Albertans have multiple sclerosis.