Multiple Sclerosis is a complex disorder that researchers cannot pinpoint an exact cause for. However, consideration has been given to the effects of cannabis and CBD for potential treatment of the condition’s varying symptoms.
Does CBD work for multiple sclerosis? Early research shows promising signs…
The U.S. National Library of Medicine acknowledges cannabidiol (CBD) as having potential for the relief of “spasticity in adult patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).” Due to the varying nature and random flare-up of the condition, however, MS is still a frustrating disease to treat. As they say, multiple sclerosis affects no two people in the same exact way.
Although dozens of prescription medications are available, conventional drugs vary in terms of their efficacy. This is largely why the topic of CBD oil for multiple sclerosis is advancing into the limelight. According to preliminary evidence, it may prove a viable treatment option.
In fact, anecdotal evidence is already galvanizing thousands of MS sufferers to give CBD a try. Many are hoping to ditch their prescription meds in favor of the all-natural, non-psychoactive cannabinoid.
High-profile entities like Montel Williams (who uses medical cannabis for MS) are even advocating for funding and scientific research. Additionally, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (a traditionally conservative organization) is on board to advocate for legalized medical cannabis at the state level.
Don’t forget about the government patent on cannabinoids
Perhaps most shocking is the fact that the US government currently holds a patent on cannabinoids as a ‘neuroprotectant.’ The patent cites the ability of cannabinoids to act as neuroprotectants that limit neurological damage. Of course, neurodegeneration and neurological damage is one of the key detriments of multiple sclerosis.
In this article, we’ll talk about how MS attacks nerve fibers and disrupts neurological pathways. We’ll also discuss how cannabidiol (CBD) may be able to influence these pathways. While one should not consider CBD oil for multiple sclerosis a cure, it may provide an alternative form of relief.
Multiple Sclerosis: What it is, what it does, and how people get it
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as an “immune-mediated” condition. The body’s own immune system attacks fibers of the central nervous system (which comprises the brain and spinal cord).
After nerve fiber damage, scar tissue begins to form. This scar tissue can interrupt neurological communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Neural communication is vital for many functions in humans, including motor skills and behavior.
The severity of symptoms that multiple sclerosis victims experience depends on the location of nerve fiber damage. It also depends on how many fibers are damaged. In milder cases, MS symptoms can be as moderate as mood swings or muscle spasms. In more severe cases, victims may end up with paralysis and/or a complete inability to control bodily functions.
As for prevalence, multiple sclerosis is a relatively rare disease. It affects about 400,000 people in the U.S. and about 2 million more worldwide. While researchers are in the dark as to what triggers MS, we do know some things about it. For instance, we know that women of northern European descent between the ages of 20 and 55 are most at risk.
DID YOU KNOW? Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease that only affects about 1 in 850 Americans.
MS risk factors
Genetics and family history seem to play an important part in the onset of MS. We also know that exposure to environmental agents can increase risk. The good news is that not all sufferers experience overly-debilitating symptoms. Many, in fact, maintain relatively normal day-to-day lives.
Also, contrary to popular belief, multiple sclerosis is not necessarily a terminal disease. While in some instances the disease is degenerative (meaning it gets worse over time) and ends in death, the average lifespan of individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis is in fact only marginally shorter than the average US adult lifespan.
Conventional (Non-Cannabis) MS Treatment Methods and Their Side-Effects
Multiple sclerosis exists in four different stages, or “disease courses.” Conventional treatments and prescriptions depend on which particular stage a patient is in. In order of increasing severity, the four courses of MS are:
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS).
Given the “come and go” nature of multiple sclerosis, patients can go months or even years without diagnosis. In the event of diagnosis, however, prescription meds are typically the treatment of choice. Prescription MS medications include interferons like Avonex and Betaseron, as well as immunomodulators like Copaxone.
Interferons work by lowering the number of white blood cells in the body. This limits the “sources” of attack on CNS nerve fibers. Since white blood cells make up the immune system and protect against disease, however, these drugs can be dangerous. They can even produce side effects similar to those of chemotherapy.
Prescription MS drugs can present side effects similar to those of chemotherapy. Can CBD act as a safer, more effective alternative?
The risk of side effects with MS drugs
Immunomodulators like Copaxone generally present fewer severe side effects than interferons. However, these drugs are not always effective for patients. Functionally, they act as “sacrificial myelin” during MS flare-ups. This is when synthetically-produced amino acids take the brunt of the immune response rather than the myelin protective coatings of the nerve fibers themselves.
Ultimately, most MS sufferers couldn’t care less what kind of treatment they take, or where it comes from. The only thing that matters to them is whether or not the medication is effective, and to what extent it allows them to live a normal life. Those who seek alternative treatments like CBD oil generally do so for one of the following reasons:
- Their prescription meds are ineffective
- Their prescribed medical regimen produces too many or too severe of side effects
- They’re prescription medications are too expensive
CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis: Is it the Real Deal?
What’s so impossibly frustrating about the lack of attention and research CBD gets as a viable multiple sclerosis treatment is the fact that, as we said, the U.S. government holds a patent on the drug for its ability to limit neurological damage.
This simple fact can be considered in one of two ways. On the one hand, the notion that the cannabinoid is recognized by the National Institute of Health as a neuroprotectant is virtually a signed, sealed, and delivered acknowledgment of its ability to treat multiple sclerosis.
On the other, more sinister hand, some have said that the fact the drug is patented by the federal government means it’s highly unlikely it’ll ever get into the hands of Big Pharma. Superficially this might seem like a good thing, but at the end of the day all it means is that ‘conventional’ physicians and medical professionals will be unlikely to recognize it as a viable multiple sclerosis treatment.
Instead, they’ll likely just continue to push the risky, absurdly expensive pharmaceutical drugs which are backed by FDA research, federal regulations, and of course, multibillion dollar pharmaceutical corporations.
Will the U.S. Government’s patent limit the likelihood that CBD gets approved as a multiple sclerosis treatment? Only time will tell…
The continuing power of Big Pharma
At the end of the day, due to its all-powerful financial hand, Big Pharma will likely have the final say in terms of what’s going to be available in terms of treatment, and what’s not.
The fact that CBD oil for multiple sclerosis has shown potential to offer efficient and productive relief from the disease is irrelevant – if it’s not financially viable for the drug manufacturers, you’re likely not going to see the majority of physicians prescribing it. And of course, there’s nothing financially viable about a 100% natural plant that you can grow in your own home.
CBD, Multiple Sclerosis, and What You Need to Know
One thing we didn’t necessarily clarify is the difference in function between CBD and THC. THC, of course, is the archetypal marijuana component; it’s what’s responsible for getting us high, and is what has been the driving force behind generations of legal condemnation and “lazy stoner” typecasts.
CBD, on the other hand, has none of these psychoactive properties – it won’t get you any more ‘high’ than a tablet of ibuprofen will. Rather, the molecule functions as an “endocannabinoid supplement”; that is to say, our bodies are chock-full of 100% natural cannabinoid receptors that work hand-in-hand with 100% natural endocannabinoids.
If there is an absence or deficiency in the production of these endocannabinoids, the receptors will not be able to function properly. And it just so happens that the central nervous system is the region of the body that’s most densely populated with cannabinoid receptors – the same region where multiple sclerosis attacks nerve fibers.
MS and a possible endocannabinoid deficiency
Could, then, multiple sclerosis potentially be a disease hinged on a basic endocannabinoid deficiency? No one can answer that question without years of research. That said, anecdotal evidence is already suggesting that an uncanny relationship may exist between the two components.
Much research will be needed in order to understand any potential dynamic between MS and endocannabinoid deficiency.
For the time being, at least, it seems multiple sclerosis sufferers will continue to have to rely on self-treatment methods, and, unless they live in a medically legalized state, will have to resort to “non-conventional” approaches in order to obtain alternative medications like CBD oil.
The impossibly comical irony of the federal government owning a medically-viable patent to CBD, while maintaining a Schedule I status on the plant that it comes from, is a discussion that will have to wait for another time and another place. Whatever means an MS sufferer might have to go to in order to receive treatment and receive the parts of their life back that the disease took from them, though, is a decidedly small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
Current Research on Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis
Believe it or not, dozens of academic and research publications have come out in recent years with regard to the use of cannabinoids as a potential MS treatment. Here, we point out five of the most relevant studies to date. But beware – the information contained herein may make you violently angry when considering the fact that the government has not pursued clinical trials for the use of CBD on multiple sclerosis.
|Frontiers in Neurology||2017||“There is a wide acceptance of cannabis [use] within the MS community: up to 60% of PwMS victims currently use cannabis, and up to 90% would consider using it if it were legal and more scientific evidence was available.”|
|Issues in Emerging Health Technologies||2005||Sativex is a cannabis-based, FDA-approved medication for the “adjunctive treatment of neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).”|
|Neurobiology of Disease||2013||“CBD provides long-lasting protection against the effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis.”|
|Marijuana as a Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy||2000||“…nearly every participant in a 1997 survey of 112 regular marijuana users with multiple sclerosis [stated] that the drug lessened both pain and spasticity.”|
|U.S. National Library of Medicine: Cannabidiol||2005||CBD has been given a “standard marketing authorization” by Health Canada for use as a supplementary treatment for multiple sclerosis-related spasticity.|
Our Top Picks: 5 Best CBD Oils for Multiple Sclerosis
As it turns out, not all CBD oils are exactly the same. While they all, of course, rely on cannabidiol as the active component, some specific tinctures have shown to be more effective at treating symptoms stemming from MS than have others.
While a full-spectrum cannabis CBD oil is thought to be the best option, these oils are often not available nationwide, as you typically need a medical marijuana license (MMJ card) and access to a legal dispensary to be able to purchase them.
A note on CBD for Multiple Sclerosis by Dr. Mosab Deen:
“In essence, it is vital to understand that CBD may not only releive symptoms of multiple sclerosis, without inflated pharmaceutical prices or their unhealthy side effects, but may be the secret cure to preventive neurodegeneration through the endocannibinoid pathway that MS patients suffer from.”
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