Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found that smoking marijuana can help relieve pain, and muscle tightness “spasticity” in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Even though there are drugs available to relieve spasticity, a disabling condition in which the muscles become tight and hard to control, they do not always improve the condition in patients and can have also have side effects.

In order to determine whether smoking cannabis can have an effect on spasticity in individuals who do not respond well the existing treatment, the researchers enrolled 30 individuals to participate in the study. 63% of study participants were female, over 50% needed walking aids, and 20% used wheelchairs. The average age of the research participants was 50 years.

The researchers rated the spasticity of each participant’s joints on the modified Ashworth scale, a common objective tool to assess intensity of muscle tone.

Compared with the placebo group, participants who smoked marijuana experienced an almost one-third decrease on the Ashworth scale – 2.74 points from a baseline score of 9.3, meaning spasticity improved. In addition, pain scores among those in cannabis group decreased by around 50%.

Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom, Department of Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego, California, with co-authors explained:

“We saw a beneficial effect of smoked cannabis on treatment-resistant spasticity and pain associated with multiple sclerosis among our participants. Although generally well-tolerated by our participants, smoking cannabis was accompanied by acute cognitive effects.”

The researchers found that although smoking cannabis negatively affected cognitive function, the effects were short term.

The researchers conclude:

“Using an objective measure, we saw a beneficial effect of inhaled cannabis on spasticity among patients receiving insufficient relief from traditional treatments.

Although generally well-tolerated, smoking cannabis had acute cognitive effects. Larger, long-term studies are needed to confirm our findings and determine whether lower doses can result in beneficial effects with less cognitive impact.”

Written By Grace Rattue