A report soon to be published in the January 2012 issue of Pharmacology & Therapeutics shares promising results from clinical trials that show how ingested cannabis acts as a novel therapeutic agent in Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders, including epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s (AD), Parkinson’s(PD), Huntington’s Disease (HD).
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years as a medical treatment, with historical Chinese and Indian records listing in detail the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic and anti-convulsant properties of marijuana. In fact, cannabis was included in many pharmaceutical encyclopedias as an effective therapeutic agent until governments stepped in and created prohibition of its use.
Restrictions on widespread therapeutic use of cannabis largely came into play after concern that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a predominant component of cannabis, caused negative and psychotropic side effects. However researchers from the UK have shown that there are many forms of phytocannabinoids (pCBs) that can be used effectively as treatment to many CNS disorders.
Sativex is one such example of a marijuana-based medicine. Sativex is the first medicine derived from whole cannabis plant extracts to be licensed in Canada, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and the UK. Sativex has been clinically proven to be effective in treating pain and spasticity in MS patients, which set the precedent for the licensed use of pCBs as a recognized and legal medical treatment in some countries.
Researchers of this study found that the first reference to the muscle relaxant properties of cannabis could be found as early as the 9th century A.D., with reference to other medicinal uses growing throughout the century. After a small-scale human clinical trial between 1983-2002 showed beneficial results to MS patients using cannabis, the way was paved for further trials to be conducted. Subsequent studies have shown cannabis to also be effective with, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
MS is a particularly painful, chronic, and progressive disease most often diagnosed in young adults. Patients with MS experience acute attacks with months or years of remission in between. However, as the patient ages, the attacks become more severe, frequent and painful. The use of cannabis in every single clinical trial investigating its therapeutic qualities has demonstrated that it not only helps with symptom control and decreasing pain and neuroinflammation, but survival rates are extended as well.
The increasing clinical evidence that cannabis can be of benefit in treating MS as well as other CNS disorders merits further research into how pCBs can be safe to use pharmacologically. All positive results from trials such as these only help to lower the barriers of negative societal perceptions associated with the use of marijuana-based medicines. The hope is that one day such evidence will lead to high quality medical marijuana being available legally for widespread use for those suffering from serious illnesses.