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Study: Cannabis Extracts Mitigate Muscle Stiffness In Multiple Sclerosis Patients

[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

The oral administration of cannabis extracts significantly reduces muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to just published clinical trial data published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Investigators at the University of Plymouth, Clinical Neurology Research Group, in the United Kingdom assessed the use of cannabinoids versus placebo in 279 subjects with MS over a twelve-week period. Cannabis extracts in the study contained standardized doses of THC and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive constituent in cannabis, contained in a soft, gelatin capsule.

Investigators reported that oral cannabis extracts were “superior” over placebo in the treatment of MS-associated muscle stiffness and pain.

Authors concluded: “Treatment with standardized oral extract of cannabis sativa relieved muscle stiffness. The proportion of participants experiencing relief was almost twice as large in the cannabis extract group as in the placebo group. … Effective pain relief is also achieved by cannabis extracts, especially in patients with a high baseline pain score. Our findings suggest that standardized cannabis extracts can be clinically useful in treating the highly complex phenomenon of spasticity in MS.”

In May, clinical trial data published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association reported that cannabis inhalation significantly mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis.

Separate clinical trials assessing the administration of oral cannabis extracts on patients with MS have indicated that cannabinoids can alleviate symptoms of the disease long-term and may also act in ways to mitigate MS progression. Sativex, an oral spray containing plant cannabis extracts, is presently legal by prescription to treat MS-related symptoms in over a dozen countries, including Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Spain. Nonetheless, the National MS Society of the United States shares little enthusiasm for cannabis as a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis, stating, “Studies completed thus far have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana or its derivatives provide substantiated benefits for symptoms of MS.”

Full text of the study, “Multiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial,” appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

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