If you’re reading this, you probably know something about multiple sclerosis. Either you know of anyone with MS, like a relative or friend. You’ve also likely heard people take issue with marijuana because they’ve bought into the myth of it being a “gateway drug,” so they’ve got a stick up their butts even about marijuana’s usefulness as part of Mother Nature’s apothecary shelf.
So, this article aims to answer the question of whether marijuana truly helps MS patients, and chances are, by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have made up your mind.
“But, here’s the problem,” you say. “I’m still an absolute idiot about MS. I’ve heard about the name, but I don’t know what it does.”
Fear not friends. The following section will bring you up to speed.
What Does Multiple Sclerosis Do?
Okay, here’s the simplest way to explain this illness: it is an autoimmune disease that, for some mysterious reason, attacks one’s own central nervous system. Inflammation results, subsequently destroying the myelin sheaths that cover your nerves.
Think of your nervous system like electrical cables, such as extension cords, AC adapter cords, etc. All electrical cables you plug into the wall are covered with a material that doesn’t conduct electricity, most often rubber. If you’ve seen what happens when the rubber breaks and all those bundles of wires are exposed, you get power shorts, and your power cords and cables don’t work right, and they’re even dangerous.
The myelin sheath that surrounds each neuron in the brain and spinal cord is rather like that protective layer. When someone develops MS, the myelin sheaths start to deteriorate, and a host of nerve communication problems happen, from overtight muscles to blurry vision and on and on. The patient’s quality of life therefore deteriorates as well.
How Does Marijuana Treat Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms?
Here are top five ways weed helps to reduce the effects of MS, helping patients stay active:
1. Anti-inflammatory Cannabis has long been known to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which make it a good choice for easing other ailments, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. A key symptom of any autoimmune problem, including MS, is inflammation. But how does it work? Agonists (things that act upon other things) of the CB-1 receptor, such as THC or the endocannibinoid known as anandamide, have a neuroprotective effect, reducing the immune response, subsequently reducing inflammation.
2. Analgesic An analgesic usually works to reduce the pain associated with inflammation, so it’s no surprise that cannabis not only reduces the inflammation associated with MS, it reduces the pain that the inflammation causes.
3. Anti-spasmodic Muscle spasms, or brief, involuntary muscle contractions, are often a debilitating symptom of MS. By reducing the inflammation and deterioration of the myelin sheaths, cannabis also assists with reducing the frequency and strength of muscle spasms.
4. Anti-depressant The effects of cannabis on symptoms of depression has been debated for quite a while, but many MS patients who have used cannabis to ease their symptoms have reported a substantial reduction in depression and other emotional dysfunction. It is not uncommon for MS patients to suffer from clinical depression, which may be related to the ravaging effects on the nervous system. But it also may be tied to eventually feeling like a prisoner in one’s own body, physically, due to the muscle spasms, pain and inflammation. Cannabis seems to ease many MS symptoms all around, bringing much-needed emotional relief as well as increasing mobility.
5. Gastro-intestinal issues Believe it or not, MS sufferers actually end up having to put up with gastro-intestinal distress, from constipation to more embarrassing issues such as incontinence—basically not being able to control the #2 urge. This is definitely an area where cannabis can help out. The CB-2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system respond to the intake of cannabinoids, which reduces issues in the intestines.
So, it’s pretty clear that, despite some people’s insistence that weed remain illegal, cannabis can be extremely effective at not only reducing MS symptoms, but truly slowing the progression of the disease.