MONDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking pot can help relieve muscle tightness, called spasticity, and pain in people with multiple sclerosis, a new, small study suggests.
"Spasticity is a major problem [in multiple sclerosis]," explained study author Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom, director of the University of California, San Diego Multiple Sclerosis Center. "People get very tight and it hurts, it feels like charley horses."
Medicines are available, but they don't help everyone, she added.
In the study, Corey-Bloom and her colleagues looked at 30 multiple sclerosis patients with muscle tightness who weren't helped by conventional medicines, and discovered they found relief by smoking pot. "Smoking pot reduces the spasticity by about a third compared to patients on [an inactive] placebo," she said.
The study is published in the May 14 issue of the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
More than 400,000 people in the United States have multiple sclerosis, or MS, a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Symptoms can be mild, such as numbness, or much more severe, such as paralysis and vision loss.
Experts don't know the cause of multiple sclerosis. Research is focusing on the immune system, genetics and other factors.
Over the years, Corey-Bloom had heard some of her patients who smoked pot tell her it helped ease the symptoms of their disease, but she was skeptical. Research in medical literature was mostly on cannabinoids given orally, she said. And the studies tended to rely on subjective measures, just asking the patients if their symptoms improved.
So, she decided to do some research using smoked cannabis.
The average age of the 30 adults studied was about 50 years. Two-thirds needed walking aids, and one-fifth used wheelchairs.
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