Even though Multiple Sclerosis is a complex disorder that researchers have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for, plenty of consideration has been given to the effects of cannabis – and specifically CBD – for the condition’s varying symptoms.
| Does CBD work for multiple sclerosis? Early research has shown highly promising signs…
In fact, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has acknowledged cannabidiol (CBD) as having potential for the relief of “spasticity in adult patients with multiple sclerosis (MS),” but due to its wildly varying nature and seemingly random flare-up of symptoms, multiple sclerosis can still be a horrendously frustrating disease to try and treat. No two people, as they say, are affected in the same way.
And though dozens of prescription medications are available (which we’ll talk about shortly), conventional drugs can be hit or miss in terms of their efficacy for any given individual. In fact, only about 1 in 4 experience reduced MS symptoms with prescribed pharmaceutical treatment.
This is why in recent years, CBD oil for multiple sclerosis has come barreling into the limelight in terms of its potential as a viable treatment option. Increased marketing (as well as overwhelming anecdotal evidence) just in the past year or so has inspired thousands upon thousands of MS sufferers to ditch their prescription meds in favor of the all-natural, non-psychoactive cannabinoid.
Likewise, high-profile entities like Montel Williams (who suffered severely with MS before resorting to cannabis), have been advocating for enhanced funding and continued scientific research of the drug. Even the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which traditionally has been a conservative organization, has jumped on board to advocate for legalized medical cannabis at the state level.
perhaps most shockingly of all, however, is the fact that the US government currently holds a patent on CBD as a ‘neuroprotectant’, citing its scientifically-proven ability to limit neurological damage from neurodegenerative diseases (multiple sclerosis is, of course, a highly neurodegenerative disease).
In this article, we’ll talk about how MS attacks nerve fibers and disrupts neurological pathways, and in what specific ways cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to physiologically manipulate and correct these pathways. While it’s certainly no cure or quick fix by any stretch of the imagination, CBD oil for multiple sclerosis is increasingly promising to be one of the more effective alternative treatment methods out there.
Multiple Sclerosis: What it is, what it does, and how people get it
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as an “immune-mediated” condition in which fibers of the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves) are attacked by the body’s own immune system.
Once the nerve fibers are attacked, scar tissue begins to form, which interrupts crucial neurological communication between the brain and other parts of the body. This communication is vital for essentially every function in the human body – motor, behavioral, emotional, or otherwise.
The severity of symptoms that multiple sclerosis victims experience thus depends on the location of the affected nerve fibers, as well as how many fibers are attacked — and how often. In milder cases, symptoms may be as moderate as mood swings or muscle spasms, while in more severe cases victims may end up with paralysis and/or a complete inability to control bodily functions.
In terms of prevalence, multiple sclerosis is a relatively rare disease; it affects about 400,000 people here in the U.S., and about 2 million more worldwide. And while researchers are still in the dark as to what exactly triggers it, they have determined that women of northern European descent between the ages of 20 and 55 are most at risk (though thousands of men also suffer from the disease).
DID YOU KNOW: Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease that only affects about 1 in 850 Americans?
Additionally, genetics and family history seem to play an important part as well in the initial onset, as does the combination of being exposed to some particular “environmental agent”, though experts have failed to elaborate on what those agent(s) may be.
The good news, if there is any, is that contrary to popular belief the vast majority of sufferers do not experience overly-debilitating symptoms. Most, in fact, do maintain relatively normal day-to-day lives.
Also contrary to popular belief is the notion that multiple sclerosis is a terminal disease; while it is true that in some instances the disease is highly degenerative (meaning it gets worse over time) and ends in death, the average lifespan of individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis is in fact only marginally shorter than the average US adult lifespan.
Conventional (Non-Cannabis) MS Treatment Methods And Their Side-Effects
Multiple sclerosis exists in four different stages, or “disease courses”, and conventional treatments are prescribed depending on which particular stage the victim might be in. In order of increasing severity, the four courses are
- Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS)
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS)
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS)
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS).
Given the wildly “come and go” nature of the disease, though, and the seemingly random flare-up of symptoms, people have gone untreated for months or even years in many cases before being officially diagnosed. Once diagnosed, however, common prescription meds include interferons such as Avonex, Rebif, and Betaseron, and also immunomodulators like Copaxone.
Interferons work by lowering the number of white blood cells in the body, thereby limiting the “sources” of attack on CNS nerve fibers. Since white blood cells make up the immune system and are responsible for protecting against disease, however, these drugs can be dangerous and produce side effects similar to those of chemotherapy.
| “Prescription MS drugs often present severe side effects similar to those of chemotherapy. Can CBD act as a safer, more effective alternative?”
Immunomodulators like Copaxone are generally considered to have less severe side effects than interferons, but these drugs have only been shown to be effective in about 25% of patients. Functionally, they act as “sacrificial myelin” during MS flare-ups, in which synthetically-produced amino acids take the brunt of the immune response, rather than the myelin protective coatings of the nerve fibers themselves.
When all is said and done, MS sufferers could likely care less what kind of treatment they take, or where it comes from – the only thing that matters to them is whether or not the medication is effective, and to what extent it allows them to live a normal life. Ultimately, those who seek alternative treatments like CBD oil generally do so for one of the following reasons:
- Their prescription meds are ineffective
- They produce too many or too severe of side effects
- They’re too expensive
As it turns out, CBD may be a phenomenal alternative with the potential to negate all three of these factors.
CBD Oil for Multiple Sclerosis: Is it the Real Deal?
What’s so impossibly frustrating about the lack of attention and research CBD gets as a viable multiple sclerosis treatment is the fact that, as we said, the U.S. government holds a patent on the drug for its ability to limit neurological damage.
This simple fact can be considered in one of two ways. On the one hand, the notion that the cannabinoid is recognized by the National Institute of Health as a neuroprotectant is virtually a signed, sealed, and delivered acknowledgment of its ability to treat multiple sclerosis.
On the other, more sinister hand, some have said that the fact the drug is patented by the federal government means it’s highly unlikely it’ll ever get into the hands of Big Pharma. Superficially this might seem like a good thing, but at the end of the day, all it means is that ‘conventional’ physicians and medical professionals will be unlikely to recognize it as a viable multiple sclerosis treatment.
Instead, they’ll likely just continue to push the risky, absurdly expensive pharmaceutical drugs which are backed by FDA research, federal regulations, and of course, multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical corporations.
| “Will the U.S. Government’s patent limit the likelihood that CBD gets approved as a multiple sclerosis treatment? Only time will tell…”
At the end of the day, due to its all-powerful financial hand, Big Pharma will likely have the final say in terms of what’s going to be available in terms of treatment, and what’s not.
The fact that CBD oil for multiple sclerosis has shown potential to offer efficient and productive relief from the disease is irrelevant – if it’s not financially viable for the drug manufacturers, you’re likely not going to see the majority of physicians prescribing it. And of course, there’s nothing financially viable about a 100% natural plant that you can grow in your own home.
CBD, Multiple Sclerosis, and What You Need to Know
One thing we didn’t necessarily clarify is the difference in function between CBD and THC. THC, of course, is the archetypal marijuana component; it’s what’s responsible for getting us high, and is what has been the driving force behind generations of legal condemnation and “lazy stoner” typecasts.
CBD, on the other hand, has none of these psychoactive properties – it won’t get you anymore ‘high’ than a tablet of ibuprofen will. Rather, the molecule functions as an “endocannabinoid supplement”; that is to say, our bodies are chock-full of 100% natural cannabinoid receptors that work hand-in-hand with 100% natural endocannabinoids.
If there is an absence or deficiency in the production of these endocannabinoids, the receptors will not be able to function properly. And it just so happens that the central nervous system is the region of the body that’s most densely populated with cannabinoid receptors – the same region where multiple sclerosis attacks nerve fibers.
Could, then, multiple sclerosis potentially be a disease hinged on a basic endocannabinoid deficiency? While no one can answer that question without years of continued research, much of the anecdotal evidence is suggesting that an uncanny relationship may exist between the two components.
| “Could MS be a disease hinged on basic endocannabinoid deficiency? Anecdotal evidence on CBD use has suggested that an uncanny relationship may exist between the two components…”
For the time being, at least, it seems multiple sclerosis sufferers will continue to have to rely on self-treatment methods, and, unless they live in a medically legalized state, will have to resort to “non-conventional” approaches in order to obtain alternative medications like CBD oil.
The impossibly comical irony of the federal government owning a medically-viable patent to CBD while maintaining a Schedule I status on the plant that it comes from is a discussion that will have to wait for another time and another place.
Whatever means an MS sufferer might have to go to in order to receive treatment and receive the parts of their life back that the disease took from them, though, is a decidedly small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
Current Research on Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis
Believe it or not, dozens of academic and research publications have come out in recent years with regard to the use of cannabinoids as a potential MS treatment. Here, we point out five of the most relevant studies to date. But beware – the information contained herein may make you violently angry when considering the fact that the government has not pursued clinical trials for the use of CBD on multiple sclerosis.
|Frontiers in Neurology||
“There is a wide acceptance of cannabis [use] within the MS community: up to 60% of PwMS victims currently use cannabis, and up to 90% would consider using it if it were legal and more scientific evidence was available.”
|Issues in Emerging Health Technologies||
Sativex is a cannabis-based, FDA-approved medication for the “adjunctive treatment of neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).”
|Neurobiology of Disease||
“CBD provides long-lasting protection against the effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis.”
|Marijuana as a Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy||
“…nearly every participant in a 1997 survey of 112 regular marijuana users with multiple sclerosis [stated] that the drug lessened both pain and spasticity.”
|U.S. National Library of Medicine: Cannabidiol||
CBD has been given a “standard marketing authorization” by Health Canada for use as a supplementary treatment for multiple sclerosis-related spasticities.
Our Top Picks: 5 Best CBD Oils for Multiple Sclerosis
As it turns out, not all CBD oils are exactly the same. While they all, of course, rely on cannabidiol as the active component, some specific tinctures have shown to be more effective at treating symptoms stemming from MS than have others.
While a full-spectrum cannabis CBD oil is thought to be the best option, these oils are often not available nationwide, as you typically need a medical marijuana license (MMJ card) and access to a legal dispensary to be able to purchase them.
With that said, there are a few companies that seem to be helping with various symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Here are our top 5 favorite ones [with two extras that we had to throw in as “honorable mentions”]:
[It’s important to understand that these products will not cure MS, nor any of its symptoms. Rather, they may simply act to help provide a certain level of relief (due to the reasons outlined above), though this is by no means guaranteed.]