the condition known as MS the normal functioning of the nerves in the
brain and spinal cord is disrupted, probably caused by abnormal activity
in the immune system. Debilitating attacks, which last for weeks, come
and go unpredictably, with gradual deterioration and eventual disability.
Because the central nervous system controls the entire body, the effects
may appear anywhere. Common symptoms include tingling, numbness, impaired
vision, difficulty in speaking, painful muscle spasms, loss of co-ordination
and balance, fatigue, weakness or paralysis, loss of bladder control,
urinary tract infections, constipation, skin ulcerations and severe depression.
There is no known effective treatment. Almost all MS patients experience some degree of spasticity, including stiffness, muscle spasms, cramps or muscle pain. The standard drugs used to treat the muscle spasms are addicitve, have severe short-term side effects and worryingly damaging long-term side effects. Many MS sufferers find that they don't even work.
Animal studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors are densely populated in the areas of the brain which control movement, which suggets that cannabis may have anti-spastic effects. It seems indeed that cannabis has a startling and profound effect on the symptoms of MS. It stops muscle spasms, reduces tremors, restores balance, restores bladder control and restores speech and eyesight. Many wheelchair-bound patients report that they can walk unaided when they have smoked cannabis. Patients also report that they find smoked herbal cannabis better at controlling their symptoms that synthetic derivatives. It is now thought that cannabis may even retard the progression of the disease.
A certain degree of efficacy can be shown purely in the huge amounts of anecdotal evidence that abound. A House of Lords reports states that the Multiple Sclerosis Society (consisting of approximately 35000 MS-suffering patients) estimates that as many as 4% of their population already use cannabis for the relief of their symptoms despite the considerable legal and health risks associated with the seemingly inhumane current prohibition of cannabis for any condition. The chairman of the committee went on to state that 'we have seen enough evidence to convince us that a doctor might legitimately want to prescribe cannabis to relieve...the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and that the criminal law ought not to stand in the way.'
Many of the witnesses for that report shared the British Medical Association's view that 'A high priority should be given to carefully controlled trials of cannabinoids in patients with chronic spastic disorders'. Indeed, at the current time a BMA report requests that the synthetic cannabinoids Nabilone and Dronabinol are officially licensed for use in MS and other spastic disorders.