Today is World MS Day. Almost everyone has heard of MS, and with and with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimating there are 2.5 million MS sufferers worldwide, it has likely impacted the lives of someone you know or care about. Our nation has not been exempted from the effects of MS – in reality, it affects Canadians disproportionally. In 2008, The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation ranked Canada fifth for incidences of MS with 132.5 cases per 100,000 people. Since then, Canada’s rank rocketed to first with 291 cases per 100,000 people. The incidence of MS is strongly correlated with distance from the equator and being a northern nation has not helped. The MS Society of Canada estimates that 1,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed every year in Canada with around 100,000 Canadians currently living with the disease.
The debate on the cause of MS is controversial and ongoing. We understand who is at risk, how it behaves and the major types but what causes it is up for debate. Simply put, MS is a condition where the phospholipid myelin (the insulating coat around our nerve cells) is degraded. This causes damage to nerve tissues, decreased conduction, and central nervous system injury. It is widely thought that the nature of the illness may be autoimmune which lends itself to the sex-ratio favoring women two to one. Often the disease follows a relapsing remitting form with periodic improvement and relapses into common symptoms. However, other forms such as primary-progressive MS and progressive-relapsing can develop.
The Canadian government has allowed the use of cannabis to treat this debilitating condition for many years, but education on what is beneficial is markedly absent. The symptoms of MS span the gamut vision and eye problems, muscle spasms, nerve pain, confusion, depression, and fatigue. While there are many more issues cannabis can treat these symptoms on ways many conventional treatments such as immunomodulators and corticosteroids cannot.
For the issues revolving around muscle spasticity the use of the non-euphoric cannabidiol can greatly improve mobility and reduce spasms via the activation of CB2 receptors. Conversely for the nerve pain, depressive features and resultant sleep issues can be dealt with via tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
These claims are not simply anecdotal. In 2005 and 2014, the American Journal of Neurology published work from found cannabis extract was useful in the treatment of central pain or spasms and sleep disturbance (Koppel et. al, 2014; Rog et. al, 2005). For domestic research the Canadian Medical Association also demonstrated that the use of cannabis resulted in significant reduction of pain and treatment resistant muscle spasticity (Corey-Bloom, et. al 2012).
Health Canada has justifiably included multiple sclerosis as a qualifying condition for the use of medical cannabis. If you or someone you know is not dealing with the symptoms or treatment of MS there are resource centers like 420 Clinic that will help you in getting a legal ACMPR cannabis prescription and providing continuing education completely free of charge.