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Cannabis

One in five people with MS we surveyed in 2014 told us they’d used cannabis to help with their symptoms. They said it can help with muscle spasms or stiffness (spasticity) and pain.

Cannabis is made up of compounds called cannabinoids. The main ones studied for their therapeutic effect are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gets you ‘high’, and cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t.

In November 2018, the Government legalised cannabis for medicinal use, but also put a strict criteria in place for who could access it. Only specialist doctors are allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis, and so far only a handful of people have benefited from the change in law.

There’s a medically approved cannabis-based treatment called Sativex, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In England and Wales you can get it on the NHS for ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ spasticity (muscle spasms and stiffness). But you can have it only if other treatments haven’t worked. As of late 2019 it’s not yet available in Scotland or Northern Ireland but we hope it soon will be.

Some people with MS use cannabis in a variety of ways to help ease their symptoms.

Find out more about different types of cannabis, its effects, latest research into cannabis and MS and your legal position.

What to Know About CBD and MS

In this Article

  • How It May Help
  • How to Take CBD
  • What to Watch For

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the one of the main ingredients in marijuana (cannabis). It’s different from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. That’s the part of marijuana that gets you “high.”

The FDA hasn’t approved CBD to treat multiple sclerosis, or MS. Studies are ongoing, but the evidence is mixed. Here’s what we know.

How It May Help

Experts think CBD affects your brain by attaching to certain receptors in the central nervous system. They change the way these receptors respond to stimulation. This may ease inflammation and help with your brain’s immune responses.

More research is needed, but scientists think CBD may help with these MS symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Depression
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Problems with mobility

How to Take CBD

It comes in many forms. You can find CBD in:

  • Certain foods or drinks
  • Supplements (oral capsules, oral sprays, nose sprays, oils)
  • Personal care products you rub on your skin

CBD oil is a common way to take it. You can put it under your tongue or add it to your food or drinks. You can also put it on your skin. Some research found sprays you put under your tongue might be best for MS.

Continued

CBD is considered a dietary supplement. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, so there’s no way to know if what you’re getting is safe and effective. Studies show many CBD products aren’t as pure as the label says. Some have less CBD. Others may have some THC in them.

Experts say taking 300 milligrams a day by mouth for up to 6 months might be safe. Taking 1,500 milligrams per day by mouth for up to 1 month may be OK, too. People have used 2.5-milligram sprays under their tongue for up to 2 weeks.

What to Watch For

Possible side effects may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Crankiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver damage

Eating foods that are high in fat can cause your body to absorb more CBD. This can lead to side effects. It could react with other medications you’re taking, such as blood thinners. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying any form of CBD.

Sources

Harvard Medical School: “Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “What is marijuana?”

FDA: “FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD).”

MS Trust: “Sativex (nabiximols).”

Frontiers in Neurology: “Cannabidiol to Improve Mobility in People with Multiple Sclerosis.”

British Journal of Pharmacology: “The endocannabinoid system as a target for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.”

MedlinePlus: “Cannabidiol (CBD).”

Mayo Clinic: “What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?”

Can CBD help with your MS symptoms? Learn more about the research, how to take it, side effects, and more.