Medical marijuana is now regarded as a viable treatment for a wide array of conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis (MS), an often debilitating central nervous system disease.
Medical Marijuana & MS
The National MS Society affirms cannabis has been shown to relieve MS-related pain, spasticity, and bladder symptoms, while noting further research is needed to fully evaluate its effects. A recent study suggests oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are particularly effective in reducing patient-reported symptoms of muscle tightness and pain, though its tempering of MS-related tremors and spasticity measurable by physician testing remains unproven.
Cannabis is currently legal in 30 states for treatment of specified medical conditions, and CBD (cannabidiol)—an active ingredient—is permitted in 16 additional states for medical usage. Due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective qualities, CBD works to reduce fatigue and pain, and improve mobility in patients suffering from the progress of MS.
Symptoms & Side Effects
The use of marijuana for medical purposes became legal in 2014 to treat 12 specified conditions. To obtain a prescription, patients typically must have a documented diagnosis of one of these, and actively exhibit symptoms. After receiving a medical marijuana certification, a patient is then permitted to purchase from an authorized medical marijuana seller, known as a dispensary.
While this treatment is not yet covered by insurance carriers, medical marijuana use to alleviate symptoms is designed to help reduce or eliminate the need for other medications. Its two main ingredients—CBD and THC—work in conjunction to minimize pain, improve sleeping patterns, and increase overall energy and functionality, with CBD targeting nerves and THC generally impacting muscles.
Side effects are typically mild, and can include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, mild memory impairment, and elevated anxiety. As each patient is different, dosage is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, often considering factors such as a patient’s age, the symptoms being exhibited, and their severity. Medical marijuana may be inhaled or vaporized, ingested as a liquid or capsule, or placed under the tongue for direct absorption.
Protocol & Progress
To prescribe this natural treatment in the state of New York, doctors must be licensed and actively practicing, and are required to complete a four-hour course approved by the NYS Commissioner of Health. Once certified, the doctor (licensed physician’s assistants and certified nurse practitioners may also qualify) must register with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) as a practitioner within the program. Any medical professional permitted to prescribe medical marijuana should also be trained to address the illness it is intended to treat.
The hope in the medical profession is that additional research will solidify the benefits of medical marijuana and work to minimize objections stemming from limited scientific proof of its effects, along with the lingering social stigma associated with its recent legalization and potentially addictive qualities.