Medical Marijuana Lessens MS Effects, Research Suggests

With medical marijuana dispensaries set to open later this year in Massachusetts, a review of the latest research suggests that it can help alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms — such as pain, overactive bladder, and muscle stiffness.

But the review, conducted by experts convened by the American Academy of Neurology, found that marijuana doesn’t help relieve the uncontrollable limb spasms that result from a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. And it concluded that there is insufficient evidence to know whether the drug reduces symptoms caused by neurological diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Tourette syndrome, or epilepsy.

“We wanted to inform patients and physicians, but we didn’t make specific treatment recommendations,” said study co-author Dr. Gary Gronseth, a professor of neurology at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

He and his colleagues recommended that doctors consider potentially serious side effects before certifying patients to grow or buy the drug. Mood changes, depression, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts occured in about 1 percent of patients who used marijuana for medical purposes, according to the review of 34 studies published Monday in the journal Neurology, Other side effects included nausea, increased weakness, dizziness, fatigue, and feelings of intoxication.

“While certain forms of medical marjiuana can be helpful to treat some symptoms of MS, our review highlights the need for more high quality research studies on the safety and efficacy of marijuana,” said study leader Dr. Barbara Koppel, a neurologist at the New York Medical College in New York.

Despite those concerns, the conclusions of the prominent neurology group’s review could make neurologists more likely to recommend marijuana — taken as a pill, squirted into the mouth in spray form, or smoked as a joint — to MS patients who fail to benefit from standard treatments.

– Read the entire article at Boston Globe.