Feinstein and his team observed that while pot smokers were younger, there were no differences between marijuana users and nonusers in terms of gender, education, or MS disease course or duration.
However, MS patients who used marijuana were found to perform 50 percent slower on tests tracking information-processing speed and were more likely than nonusers to have a mental disability of some kind.
Marijuana use was also associated with a greater risk for being depressed or experiencing anxiety. However, the authors were not able to determine whether the drug had triggered such conditions, or if patients had sought out marijuana to help deal with a preexisting emotional issue.
They nonetheless cautioned that smoking marijuana might further raise the risk for experiencing the kind of neuro-psychological impairment that typically occurs among 40 percent to 65 percent of all MS patients.
Feinstein said that he next hopes to gather a much larger pool of patients, while exploring possible differences in the health impact of street-purchased marijuana versus prescribed cannabis.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marshall Keilson, director of neurology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he thinks it best to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
"There are some MS patients who are emotionally disabled from their disease, and if we can use cannabis to help them feel better about the world or life, we should," he said. "We need to always err on the side of doing what's best for our patients. And I don't necessarily believe there is a permanent damage to the brain, based on occasional marijuana use. If they're smoking 10 times a day, yes, there will be damage done. But this goes for excessive alcohol use, too. So, I think we're
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