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Marijuana Use Among MS Patients Raises Risk for Cognitive, Mood Problems
Date:2/13/2008

Study found slowed information-processing, increase in depression, anxiety

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Multiple sclerosis patients who smoke marijuana in search of symptom relief are more likely to suffer cognitive shortfalls and mood disorders, new Canadian research suggests.

A slowing down in the ability to process and remember information is one significant side effect, as is a rise in the rate of depression and anxiety.

"This is a small study, so our findings are preliminary, but the bottom line is that multiple sclerosis patients who smoke cannabis appear to be at an increased risk for cognitive issues, particularly with respect to the speed of their thinking," said study author Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry with the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre's department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

Feinstein's observations are published in the Feb. 13 online edition of Neurology and are focused exclusively on the impact of smoking marijuana illegally obtained by patients themselves. Medically prescribed marijuana was not studied.

The authors noted that a "significant minority" of multiple sclerosis patients smoke marijuana to combat the tingling, numbness, blindness and paralysis that can accompany the progressive and often disabling nervous system disease.

However, Feinstein's team stressed that scientists have yet to definitively prove that the psychoactive substance -- long linked to psychosis, anxiety and delirium among healthy users -- provides a measurable benefit to the more than 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide who suffer from the disease.

The researchers therefore assessed the experience of 140 Toronto-based MS outpatients, 10 of whom had smoked the drug at least once in the previous month and were considered regular marijuana users.

All the patients -- three-quarters of them women -- underwent cogn
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