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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-altering condition that affects millions throughout the world each day. Some individuals have mild symptoms that flare up then disappear, while others are plagued with pain, insomnia, spasms, and other severe symptoms throughout their lives. Being that there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, and that treatment options merely weaken attacks or slow progression, it makes sense that people with MS seek complementary treatment like medical cannabis or CBD to soothe their symptoms.

But is cannabis and CBD as a complementary treatment in multiple sclerosis effective? Science hopes to find out with a recent clinical trial.

What is Complementary Treatment?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to “medicines and health practices that are not usually used by doctors” to treat various diseases, such as cancer or MS [1]. Complementary treatment is seen as an add-on to an already established regimen.

Many complementary treatments are seen purely as palliative care. This means that the treatments are used when there are few—if any—options remaining from incurable disease. Yet, that does not mean such methods are not effective. Complementary therapies and treatments, such as medical cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD), are used “in an effort to prevent illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms,” and so on [2]. In other words, complementary therapies may not always control or cure conditions, but they do make people feel better.

And when you have MS feeling even marginally better is a wonderful thing.

How is Cannabis and CBD Currently Used as a Complementary Treatment For MS?

Presently, there are a couple of FDA-approved drugs that use cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, to treat various symptoms and conditions. The most well-known example is Epidiolex, which is used as a treatment for various (even rare) forms of epilepsy [3]. Another clinical trial is currently underway to test the effectiveness of Epidiolex for sleep problems induced by MS symptoms [4].

There is also dronabinol and nabilone. The first is derived from synthetic THC, while nabilone is semi-synthetic THC that is 10 times stronger than dronabinol [5]. Both are FDA-approved for easing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Dronabinol is also used for wasting caused by eating disorders and active HIV. In one study from 2004, dronabinol had “a modest but clinically relevant analgesic effect on central pain in patients with multiple sclerosis” [6]. Another study from 2017 agreed: Dronabinol is a safe long-term option for people with MS, in terms of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects [7].

Another option which is not currently available in the US is nabiximols (known as Sativex), an oral spray consisting of THC and CBD [8]. Nabiximols is approved in Canada for cancer pain and MS spasticity. Furthermore, the UK, Spain, and New Zealand have approved nabiximols for MS spasticity.

Reviewing The Clinical Trial

Despite the THC- and CBD-based medications available, there is limited evidence that shows an understanding of how cannabinoids impact people with MS. The clinical study titled, “Cannabis as a Complementary Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (CAN-SEP)” hopes to shed some light on the matter [9]. Although the study is currently in the planning phase, the researchers hope to gain an understanding of how THC, CBD, and THC/CBD blends affect spasticity when compared to a placebo.

Participants will receive either 4 mg/day of THC, 40 mg/day of CBD, a combination of those two doses, or a placebo on the first day of the trial. Following that, the dosages will be increased by 20 mg for THC and 200 mg for CBD. This dose will be given for 4 weeks. Those patients who respond well and experience a decrease in muscle spasticity will then continue on for another 12 weeks for observation.

Now, you may be wondering, why does this trial even matter? Well, there are two takeaways from the study. The researchers acknowledge that THC is known for “analgesic, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory” properties and that CBD seems to have “positive effects on anxiety and cognitive abilities.” Secondly, while there is yet only a smattering of evidence supporting claims that CBD and THC may relieve MS symptoms, the researchers do state that people with multiple sclerosis have been using cannabis and CBD for many years.

Hopefully, the study will show positive results, paving the way for CBD or THC derived medications for MS in the future.

The Takeaway on Cannabis as a Complementary Treatment

There are many promising studies underway, as well as THC and CBD derived medications gaining approval by the FDA. As such, there may come a day when medical cannabis is used as a complementary therapy for multiple sclerosis. Although more research must be conducted, you do not have to wait to try CBD and see if it is effective for your symptoms. CBD is 100% legal in the US, and there are many forms available.

That said, if you plan on trying CBD to potentially soothe your MS symptoms, it is important to get it from a trustworthy source, like Sugar Bottom Hemp. Our farm-grown products are minimally processed and analyzed by a certified third-party lab. With zero additives in our CBD oils and dozens of products to try, you are sure to find a form of CBD that suits you best. Want to know more about our CBD line? Get in touch with us today!

 

Bibliography

  1. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer Patients. (2022, June 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivors/patients/complementary-alternative-medicine.htm
  2. PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®): Patient Version. 2022 Oct 14. In: PDQ Cancer Information Summaries [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65875/
  3. Cannabidiol oral solution. (n.d.). Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/tools-resources/seizure-medication-list/cannabidiol-oral-solution
  4. Braley, T. J. (2022, March 8). Mechanisms of Cannabidiol in Persons With MS: the Role of Sleep and Pain Phenotype. National Library of Medicine. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05269628
  5. Strouse, T. B. (2016). Cannabinoids in Medical Practice. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 22(2), 59–63. https://doi.org/10.1089/act.2016.29043.tbs
  6. Svendsen, K. B., Jensen, T. S., & Bach, F. W. (2004). Does the cannabinoid dronabinol reduce central pain in multiple sclerosis? Randomised double blind placebo controlled crossover trial. BMJ, 329(7460), 253. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38149.566979.ae
  7. Schimrigk, S., Marziniak, M., Neubauer, C., Kugler, E., Werner, G., & Abramov-Sommariva, D. (2017). Dronabinol Is a Safe Long-Term Treatment Option for Neuropathic Pain Patients. European Neurology, 78(5–6), 320–329. https://doi.org/10.1159/000481089
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 9852188, Nabiximols. Retrieved November 11, 2022 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Nabiximols
  9. Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM). (2021, October 15). Cannabis as a Complementary Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (CAN-SEP). National Library of Medicine. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05092191