Research reviewed by the American Academy of Neurology concluded that marijuana can help relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, though it doesn’t help offset painful side effects of Parkinson’s drugs and may not help with Tourette’s, epilepsy and other neurological diseases.
Published in the journal Neurology, the study aims to give patients a clear overview of the evidence available on medical marijuana.
“We wanted to inform patients and physicians, but we didn’t make specific treatment recommendations,” said study coauthor Dr. Gary Gronseth, a professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, as reported by the Boston Globe.
Pot can help with pain, overactive bladder, and muscle stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis. At the same time, it doesn’t relieve the limb spasms that result from an anti-Parkinson’s drug.
“While certain forms of medical marijuana can be helpful to treat some symptoms of MS, our review highlights the need for more high quality research studies on the safety and efficacy of marijuana,” said Dr. Barbara Koppel, the study leader and a neurologist at New York Medical College in New York.
The reviewers say there is not enough evidence to prove that it helps with Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, and other neurological diseases—though parents with children who have seizure conditions have been increasingly turning to cannabis to find relief.
“Saying there’s insufficient evidence is not the same thing as saying that [medical marijuana] is not effective for these conditions,” Gronseth clarified.
The reviewers agree that more research is necessary to determine marijuana’s effectiveness, as well as the most effective delivery. That may not even involve the chemical THC, which creates the feeling of a “high.”
The AAN recently published new guidelines on the use of marijuana sprays to treat MS.
The research comes at a time when Massachusetts is preparing to set up marijuana dispensaries. The growing interest in legalizing marijuana, both medical and recreational, has increased the demand for concrete findings on the drug's potential benefits and consequences.