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Cannabis Helps Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: Study.

By admin | July 21, 2004

CBC News
Mon, 10 Nov 2003
Written by CBC News Online staff.

Cannabis appears to help relieve some symptoms of multiple sclerosis and it should be studied as a possible treatment, according to a clinical trial.

Researchers in the United Kingdom designed the trial to see if cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, reduced spasticity in 611 people with MS.

Investigators could not measure a difference in spasms, although they note the scale used to measure an effect may not be sensitive enough.

They did find MS patients who took cannabis pills had less pain and it was easier for them to walk, based on patient self-assessments and a timed 10-metre walk.

The study showed people who took an oral cannabis derivative were also able to sleep better.

Anecdotal reports suggest cannabis helps manage symptoms of many diseases, but there has been little scientific evidence of its benefits beyond a placebo effect.

Grant Cluff was diagnosed with MS in the late 1980s and he is one of the anecdotal cases. The retired Calgary school teacher said his lowest point was five years ago, when he was living in a wheelchair and taking a cocktail of pharmaceuticals.

“Baclafin was the biggest culprit,” said Cluff. “It worked very well in controlling my spasms. The side effects were taking away strength from my legs.”

Cluff says once he started smoking marijuana, he realized he could control the spasms and he resumed walking.

The results of the clinical trial will be published Saturday in the British medical journal The Lancet.

“One of the drawbacks of the study is that it was done using oral cannabis, which is not the most effective way of getting cannabis into the system to help spasticity,” said Calgary neurologist Dr. Luanne Metz.

Metz, the director of the MS clinic for the Calgary Health Region, co-authored a commentary on the study. She says the results should spark further research on effective ways of delivering cannabis to people.

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