For 2.5 million people of the world having multiple sclerosis and coping with aching, cramping, stiff muscle, the condition has been their lifestyle. The same symptoms are also causing suffering for patients (up to 15 million!) having spinal cord injuries; these painful symptoms cause ache, rob them of their sleep, and limit their movement. Although there are a number of conventional medications that patients can take to reduce inconvenience, the taking of these medicines seldom bring relief to patients.
Oftentimes, the drugs that patients rely on to relieve their pain are the ones which cause drowsiness, weakness, among some side effects which could be intolerable to some patients. With this, it becomes considerable then why patients with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis have resorted to marijuana in their search for relief. Several patients shared to the IOM of their muscle spasms decreasing after marijuana smoking and other further claimed that they appreciated the drug mainly due to the relief it provides from nausea and they have been able to get some sleep because of it.
In a poll of people having spinal cord injuries conducted in 1982, twenty-one out of forty-three respondents claimed that marijuana diminished their muscle spasticity – a medical problem whereby muscles tense unreceptively and resists stretching. Likewise, almost all participants during a 1997 poll of 112 marijuana regular users diagnosed multiple sclerosis said that the medicine reduced both spasticity and pain.
Even in animal research, marijuana proposes to calm muscle spasticity. These spasms are believed to come from regions of the brain which are in charge of movement which include a number of sites with plenty cannabinoid receptors. Within one experiment, researchers discovered that rodents tended to be more vigorous under the control of little quantity of cannabinoids but not as animated after having received higher doses.
Unfortunately, in spite of the suggestive discoveries and the profundity of such anecdotal evidence, antispasmodic properties of marijuana continue untried in the laboratory. The few reports about medical marijuana’s effectiveness are tremendously inadequate in scope; for instance, none of the researches incorporated over 13 patients and others were done on a single patient. In some cases, the patients’ subjective assessments of improvement conflicted with their physical performances’ objective measures. The lack of superior commonly effective drug for muscle spasticity then becomes a strong reason to persist on discovering cannabinoid medicines in the clinic.
Patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a condition of the nervous system that is progressive and has no identified cure, experience failure on the immune system that inflames nerves along the spinal cord, brain, and brain stem. The disease particularly destroys the myelin which is protective coating that covers the neural fibres just like that of an electrical wire insulation. Nerve cells drop some or all of the capacity they have to send out impulses without an intact myelin layer. A spectrum of symptoms is produced by this circumstance, which include depression, fatigue, blindness, incontinence, vertigo, muscle spasticity, and loss of voluntary muscle control.
Multiple Sclerosis is known by its scarring “sclerosis” which happens in the white substance of the central nervous system subsequent to the loss of myelin and nerves. An estimated 90 percent among those MS patients develop spasticity whereby they experience the condition in a variety of ways. Others have it as merely muscle stiffness while other endure constant cramps, involuntary muscle contractions, and ache, that are both debilitating and painful and which often disrupt sleep and affect the legs. Majority of the people who has multiple sclerosis experience irregular “attacks” of muscle spasticity that develop into progressively more disabling the more they have it and in worst scenarios, patients either becomes completely or partially paralyzed.
Baclofen (Lioresal) and tizanidine (Zanaflex) are the medicines most frequently being given to treat MS symptoms which ease both muscle spasms and spasticity but oftentimes only to some extent not at all at times. The aforementioned are both sedatives which mean that they cause patients to be drowsy as well as cause muscle weakness and dry mouth. Muscle weakness becomes really difficult for patients with MS, whose muscles weaken as the disease consistently develops.
THC and marijuana have both been tested for their influence to ease spasticity in small yet thorough clinical researches. Double-blind experimentation that was once conducted incorporated both unaffected individuals and MS patients. Patients were videotaped twice as they stood on a platform that slid back and forth at unpredictable times. They were taped once before they smoked one marijuana cigarette containing about 15 milligrams of THC (which was adequate to make a lot of people feel “high” and to weaken their motor control) and again after smoking. The participants’ shoulder movements were measured by the researchers as an indicator for how well they kept their balance. Participants who had MS claimed to have their symptoms improve after smoking marijuana.
In three separate clinical studies, the effects of THC on spasticity were put into a test, which altogether registered 30 MS patients in total; all three trials included for the participants to know that they would take THC. After the studies, a lot of the patients claimed that prescription with THC enhanced their symptoms.
Further tests on THC include a single patient experimenting on THC analog nabilone – an artificial compound that triggers similar cellular receptors like THC – as well accounted an improvement not only in spasticity but also in some MS symptoms. It is true that such clinical outcomes are significantly less striking than the survey and subjective reports of marijuana’s efficacy in easing muscle spasms. However, it is greatly possible that a progression of larger and better-designed clinical tests would generate more convincing evidence supporting medicines that are marijuana-based for multiple sclerosis.
Initial tests on animal representations of a disease are usually required in clinical trials. These allow researchers to forecast its consequences on humans and having that information, scientists can therefore design experiments that precisely gauge the ability of the medicine to alleviate patients’ symptoms. Although current animal models imitate some symptoms of MS, none have been successful to duplicate spasticity. Researchers, however, can use the finest available sign of the condition called the pendulum test to analyse the efficiency of anti-spasticity medicines in human subjects. The test can help researchers to distinguish THC’s effects as against mild sedatives. If from THC, an antispasmodic drug would be developed, its tranquillizing effect could actually be advantageous to MS patients with muscle spasms.
Although the same physiological course results to spasticity in both spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis, different symptoms are produced in these two processes. Patients who have multiple sclerosis are inclined to experience sporadic attacks of stiffness, muscle spasms, and intense pain at rather unpredictable intervals. Patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, on the other hand, experience only slight fluctuations and unrelenting inconvenience and discomfort. It is possible that the same drugs may be accepted in treating these two clusters of patients.
Both multiple sclerosis and patients with spinal cord injury would widely benefit from medications that relieve stiffness, spasms, and pain devoid of muscle weakening which usually happens with the best presently accessible treatments. The few optimistic reports of the power of THC and nabilone to diminish spasticity, along with much anecdotal evidence from marijuana users suffering from multiple sclerosis as well as spinal cord injury, warrants that cautiously designed experiments that test the efficiency of cannabinoids on a disease such as muscle spasticity is worth it.