The belief that smoking marijuana can help relieve painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis has received scientific backing after a clinical trial found that such a practice does indeed ease up the painful cramps associated with the disease.
The researchers conducted the study on a group of 30 MS patients who suffered from stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms, also known as spasticity which is a common symptom of MS. The participants were then divided into two groups, with one group being given placebo cigarettes while the second group was given marijuana cigarettes which were supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The participants were made to smoke the cigarettes for 45 minutes every day for three days before a "wash out" period of 11 days when no cigarettes were smoked. On testing the muscle tone of elbows, hips and knees, the researchers found that smoking marijuana did indeed reduce the severity of spasticity compared to when smoking placebo.
The researchers said that while their study did prove that smoking marijuana provided some relief, there is a cost associated with the practice as patients experience fatigue, dizziness and slowing down of mental skills.
"We've heard from patients that marijuana helps their spasticity, but I think a lot us thought, 'Well, it's probably just making you feel good'. I think this study shows that yes, (marijuana) may help with spasticity, but at a cost", lead researcher Dr Jody Corey-Bloom said.