Multiple sclerosis (MS), also known as disseminated sclerosis or encephalomyelitis disseminata, is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a wide range of signs and symptoms, and sometimes psychiatric problems. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms). Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely; however, permanent neurological problems often occur, especially as the disease advances.
While the cause is not clear, the underlying mechanism is thought to be either destruction by the immune system or failure of the myelin-producing cells. Proposed causes for this include genetics and environmental factors such as infections. MS is usually diagnosed based on the presenting signs and symptoms and the results of supporting medical tests.
There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. Treatments attempt to improve function after an attack and prevent new attacks. Medications used to treat MS while modestly effective can have adverse effects and be poorly tolerated. Many people pursue alternative treatments, despite a lack of evidence. The long-term outcome is difficult to predict, with good outcomes more often seen in women, those who develop the disease early in life, those with a relapsing course, and those who initially experienced few attacks. Life expectancy is on average 5 to 10 years lower than that of an unaffected population.
Studies of the efficacy of cannabis for treating multiple sclerosis have produced varying results. The combination of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) extracts give subjective relief of spasticity, though objective post-treatment assessments do not reveal significant changes. A trial of cannabis is deemed to be a reasonable option if other treatments have not been effective. Its use for MS is approved in ten countries. A 2012 review found no problems with tolerance, abuse or addiction.
- British Study Shows Cannabis Eases Multiple Sclerosis Stiffness (October 10, 2012), Cannabis Culture
- Medical Marijuana Being Used to Treat MS Symptoms But More Research is Needed by Zach Reichard (January 3, 2013), Medical Jane
- Sativex Shown To Treat Spasticity In Multiple Sclerosis (MS) by Drake Dorm (February 17, 2014), Medical Jane
- Marijuana Benefits MS Patients as Other Remedies Fail by Nicole Ostrow (March 24 2014), Businessweek
- Cannabis Classroom: Cannabis-Based Medicine For Patients Living With Multiple Sclerosis by Arielle Gerard (June 8, 2014), Medical Jane
- Multiple sclerosis at Wikipedia. Retrieved September 30, 2014.