More than 40% of patients with multiple sclerosis have used cannabis or cannabinoid products in the last year, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan. The study, “Cannabinoid use among Americans with MS: Current trends and gaps in knowledge,” was published recently in Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical.
To conduct the research, investigators with the University of Michigan collected data from a nationwide sampling of more than 1,000 patients with multiple sclerosis. The study revealed that 42% of respondents reported using cannabis or cannabinoid-based therapies such as cannabidiol (CBD) in the prior year, a rate of use that is nearly twice that of the national average, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“These national survey data highlight the rising prevalence of cannabinoid use in Americans with MS, and, among users, an abiding perception of benefit for multiple chronic symptoms,” the researchers wrote.
Among the survey respondents who used cannabis or cannabinoid products, 90% said that their cannabis use was medicinal. The researchers noted that many patients with MS experience chronic symptoms that have an insufficient number of quality treatment options. More than half of all patients experience chronic pain, which can also affect sleep. At least 60% experience sleep disturbances, which can lead to fatigue and other chronic symptoms.
The lack of effective treatment options leads many patients with MS to seek out alternative therapies, including cannabis and cannabinoid products such as CBD. However, little information on the proper use and dosage of cannabis needed to effectively treat MS is available, leading the study’s authors to call for more research on the subject.
“Many Americans with MS use cannabinoids, and CBD-predominant products in particular, to self-manage a wide range of symptoms,” they wrote. “These findings highlight crucial gaps between community use and clinical care, and illustrate an immediate need for prospective, mechanistic studies focused on the effects of cannabinoids for chronic MS symptoms, as well as interactions between MS symptoms.”
Cannabis Effective For A Range Of MS Symptoms
The patients who used cannabis to treat their MS noted that it was most effective for improving sleep and reducing tremor frequency, as well as mitigating nausea and anxiety. The researchers noted most of the patients who chose to use cannabis to treat their MS wanted more information on its use but did not receive such advice from their health care provider.
“Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents expressed a desire to receive more guidance from healthcare providers on cannabis use, yet fewer than 1% received information from their provider about the type of cannabinoid product that they used,” the authors noted.
The researchers concluded that the popularity of cannabis use among MS patients and the perceived range of benefits of THC and CBD illustrate the need for more research and for “personalized, evidence-based guidelines regarding cannabinoid use.”
“Our findings also demonstrate a growing discrepancy between cannabinoid utilization and clinical guidance regarding use, underscoring a growing need to determine if and how cannabinoids can be more effectively leveraged to treat some of the most disabling MS symptoms that currently lack high quality interventions, and a need to enhance more open educational discussions between providers and patients to optimize cannabinoid use,” they wrote.