Patterns of Medical Cannabis Use among Patients Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Published:February 10, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2021.102830

      Highlights

      • Medical marijuana used by persons with multiple sclerosis (PWMS) to treat a broad range of neurological symptoms
      • Reports of the benefit of medical marijuana to treat MS symptoms is positively associated with the severity of those symptoms
      • Greatest symptom benefit is reported by individuals with milder disability versus more moderate disability
      • The use of medical marijuana is associated with reduction or discontinuation of prescription medications for symptoms, including controlled substances

      Abstract

      Objective

      To survey the pattern and benefits of medical cannabis use (MCU) in a cross section of persons with multiple sclerosis (PWMS).

      Methods

      One hundred and fifteen subjects completed a 36-question survey online or on paper which queried aspects of their use of cannabis, including frequency of use, effect on symptoms, and changes in their use of prescription medications, as well asa number of key demographic variables such as age, gender, disease duration and clinical course, etc. All subjects were treated at a multiple sclerosis (MS) clinic in Connecticut and enrolled in the Connecticut Medical Marijuana Program (CTMMP).

      Results

      Self-reported benefit from cannabis use for two or more symptoms of MS was associated with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) vs progressive (PMS) (OR 3.043, 95% CI 1.026-9.028, p=0.038) and less benefit for two or more symptoms for those who required a wheelchair vs. those who ambulated without assistance (OR .246, 95% CI .195-.797, p=0.016). General benefit from cannabis use was reported for mood disorders (p<0.001), insomnia (p<0.001), sensory symptoms, including pain (p<0.001), and muscle cramps and spasms (p<0.001). Furthermore, benefit was also significantly associated with symptom severity in the case of insomnia (OR 9.735, 95% CI 2.751-34.445, p<0.001), and cramps and spasms (OR 5.234, 95% CI 1.261-21.729, p=0.014). A significant proportion of respondents had stopped or reduced prescription medications (86% vs. 55%, p<0.001) as a function of finding cannabis more effective than prescription medications. These included opioids, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxers and other pain medications.

      Conclusion

      MCU among PWMS can lead to the reduction or discontinuation of several categories of prescription medications for symptoms of MS. Persons reporting the most benefit from MCU tended to have a milder form of MS with less disability, in contrast to previous studies. This study confirms the benefit of cannabis in several common MS symptoms, extending these findings to show that benefit can be related to baseline severity of some symptoms.
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