Marijuana may reduce spasticity in MS patients but has cognitive costs

The Washington Post reports on a study appearing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal of “30 adults (average age, 51) with MS who had spasticity (tight, difficult-to-control muscles) that had not responded well to treatment.”

In the study, “under supervision, they smoked either a marijuana cigarette or a placebo cigarette once a day for three days,” then switched after an intervening 11 days.

According to a “standardized scale to evaluate muscle tone in elbows, hips and knees” study “participants had about 30 percent less spasticity after smoking marijuana” and “reported 50 percent less pain” than with the placebo.

The Los Angeles Times reports in its “Booster Shots” blog that the “study finds that puffing weed does have a rapid and measurable effect on MS patients’ muscle spasticity and on their perception of pain. But subjects who smoked pot were not able to walk any faster and – surprise! – they felt higher than members of the control group who smoked marijuana stripped of THC.”

The study also found that “though generally well-tolerated by our participants, smoking cannabis was accompanied by acute cognitive effects.”

Reuters reports that the study confirmed benefits from smoking marijuana for MS patients, but could not conclude that they were worth the negative results identified as “acute cognitive effects” including dizziness.

The authors suggest that medications derived from cannabis might be able to isolate the compounds with spasticity effects from the side effects.

Huffington Post reports, “Researchers found that the people who smoked the cannabis had decreased cognitive functioning, in that they scored lower on a test that measured their focus.”

HealthDay reports, “Downsides included increased fatigue,” and “cognitive (thinking) skills also declined in the pot-smoking participants.”

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