Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

An immune system disease that involves the deterioration of the protective covering of the nerves throughout the body, resulting in nerve cell damage and impaired communication between the brain and the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include a wide variety of debilitating conditions including loss of vision, pain in the back and eyes, severe fatigue, motor coordination difficulties, speech impairment and psychological issues with anxiety and depression.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

  • Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
  • The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name.
  • When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
  • The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
  • People with MS typically experience one of four disease courses, which can be mild, moderate or severe.

The Past

There are a small amount of pharmaceutical treatments for MS and no known cures. The most often prescribed steroid is Methylprednisolone, while other treatments include Natalizumab, Interferon beta-1b and Mitoxantrone, all through injection of the MS patient. Speech pathology and occupational therapists often provide treatment therapies that support daily functioning.

The Plant

Cannabinoid treatment is effective in the reduction of MS symptoms due to its interaction with the central nervous system and immune cells. A dose of 15-30 milligrams of cannabis extract capsules has been shown effective when delivered in 5 milligram doses over a 14 day spread. Cannabis extracts containing a THC-CBD combination of 2.5 to 120 milligrams have been administered orally over a span of 2-15 weeks to show symptom reduction. Both the pharmaceutical, synthetic cannabinoids Sativex and Marinol have also proved effective in managing MS symptoms. Anecdotal findings report patients finding relief from the sativas Lemon Thai and Blackberry Haze, the hybrid Grapefruit Diesel, and the indica San Fernando Valley OG Kush.

The Process

Patients have documented relief from MS symptoms via smoking and vaporizing cannabis, as well as the oral administration of cannabis extract oils and edibles. Administration of pharmaceutical mouth sprays and capsules are pharmaceutical options for synthetic cannabinoids.

Vaporizing or Vaping

If you don’t like the idea of smoke there is the option to vaporize. Vaporization does not use combustion to heat the medicine. Unfortunately there is some confusion out there about vaporizers. There are now hundreds of vaporizers to choose from. There are three basic types: pen, hand-help, and tabletop. The differences are in price, portability and size. Some vaporizers claim to be able to vaporize plant matter (flowers), wax and oils. Some can only do concentrates, some only oil. The most important difference is the method used to heat the medicine. There are basically two methods (with hybrids on the way)- conduction and convection.

True Vaporizing is done by convection, where air is heated, and in turn the hot air turns the medicine a to vapor which is then inhaled. Conduction Vaporizing happens when a hot element (metal plate, or bowl) touches the medicine. The medicine is placed directly in a metal or ceramic bowl or chamber that is heated which then heats the medicine and the smoke is inhaled. This is still combustion, and not truly vaporizing. This is closer to dabbing but with a much cooler heating element.

Smoking

The benefit from smoking as a route of administration is instant action and the ability of the patient to self titrate the dose needed for relief.

What’s Best for my Lungs?

The cleanest method to inhale medicine is true or convective vaporizing. It is better for your lungs since there is no burning or combustion.

Edibles

Edibles provide ways to eat or drink your medicine. Many medicated edibles and even bottled drinks are readily available at dispensaries. Be aware that most of the edibles at dispensaries are loaded with sugar and carbs. But basically what the edibles and drinks all contain are canna butter and/or canna oil. You can purchase these or easily make them at home to add to your own baked goods, snacks or even meals (especially if you are avoiding sugar or gluten).

The Patient

The story of 30 year old Justin Loizos from Canada outlines the dramatic potential of cannabis as an effective treatment for MS. While he admitted he once believed medical marijuana was just an excuse to get high, following his diagnosis and upping his cannabinoid intake from one gram to three grams to what he described as a “mega-dose”, he became a firm believer in the medicinal value of the plant. As Loizos stated, I was told I would never be able to walk again to have to destroy my system to get better–I had not used any pharmaceuticals up to that point. I went to my doctor to show him the positive effects I was experiencing. I could walk again. This was the same doctor who not only laughed at me previously, but would not sign my Medical Marijuana authorizations forms. After the doctor witnessed the healing effects of cannabis his tune changed: I’ll sign any amount you need Justin.”

In a 1996 study published in European Neurology, sufferers of MS from the United Kingdom and United States were surveyed on smoked cannabis as an aide to their MS symptoms. The survey reported 30% of the participants experiencing reduction of symptoms, including spasticity, chronic pain, tremors, emotional dysfunctions, weight loss, fatigue, double vision, dysfunction of walking and balance, bowel and bladder dysfunction and memory loss. The study aimed to further the dialogue around the treatment of MS symptoms with cannabis and develop clinical trials.

In 2013 Dr. Zajicek from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry studied 400 individuals with MS and measured the effect of oral cannabis extract for treating muscle stiffness. The study revealed an almost twofold improvement in muscle stiffness by those who took the cannabis extract. These individuals also reported relief in body pain and spasms, plus improvement in sleep quality.

The synthetic, pharmaceutical cannabinoid treatment Sativex, which is an oral spray, has also been shown to significantly improve spasticity in individuals with MS. Sativex is available in 11 countries and approved in an additional 13 for the treatment of the disease. Marinol is another widely prescribed treatment for MS.

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