The advocates of proposition 19, the bill that tried to legalize cannabis in California, must be turning cartwheels at the news coming out of University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. It’s especially ironic coming just a few weeks after the Federal raid and almost complete shutdown of Oaksterdam University, the privately run school in Oakland, California that teaches students how to grow and harvest the much derided herb.

A clinic trial of 30 adult patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis appears to have demonstrated its ability to reduce spasticity and pain, when compared to a placebo.

Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease that affects the lining of the nerve fibers and reduces their ability to transmit properly, a little like an electrical cable with worn insulation. It can also cause ulceration on the brain. Like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s it’s a slow and degenerative disease, without a cure, thus the best hope for doctors is finding treatments that reduce symptoms and slow the progression.

The findings of principal investigator Jody Corey-Bloom, MD, PhD, professor of neurosciences and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UC San Diego, and her colleagues will be published in Canadian Medical Association Journal this month.

In short, the trial was conducted by dividing the group in two parts, one half smoked placebo cannabis for three days, while the remaining half had the real thing. The scientists then swapped over the supply so the placebo group smoked the real thing and visa versa. The researchers didn’t mention whether or not anyone cheating by scoring their own supplies on top.

There have been previous studies that looked into the possibility of treating neurological conditions with cannabis, but they mainly focused on oral treatments, presumably because smoking was considered unhealthy. However, with a recent report showing that cannabis smokers are not affected nearly as badly as tobacco smokers, which has been attributed to its anti inflammatory properties, and taking into account that most people enjoy smoking cannabis far more than they do eating it, this new study makes more sense. There were also reports amongst the pot smoking community that cannabis was seen to relieve symptoms.

Researchers used what is known as the Ashford scale to better assess the intensity of muscle tone by grading resistance in range of motion and rigidity. The secondary study of pain levels was measured using a visual analogue scale. Physical performance was assessed by sending the patients on a timed walk, and they were also questioned about their “highness” to assess cognitive function.

Corey-Bloom said :

“We found that smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing symptoms and pain in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity, or excessive muscle contractions.”

Although cannabis is generally well tolerated, researchers noted the need for more wide ranging studies over longer time periods. They also commented on the reduced cognitive function on concentration and attention span, and postulate the idea of using lower doses to assess if the same medical results can be achieved with less side effects.

This is the fifth cannabis study in a row from University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to show positive results in treating neuropathic pain. We can only hope that the Feds are not planning to raid the facility for promoting an illegal drug, as they did in Oakland.

Igor Grant, MD, director of the CMCR, which provided funding for the study concluded:

“The study by Corey Bloom and her colleagues adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis has therapeutic value for selected indications, and may be an adjunct or alternative for patients whose spasticity or pain is not optimally managed.”

Written by Rupert Shepherd