-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A marijuana extract appears
to ease painful muscle stiffness in people with multiple sclerosis,
according to a new British study.
Muscle stiffness -- which affects up to 90 percent of multiple
sclerosis (MS) patients during the course of their disease --
reduces mobility, interferes with daily routines and affects sleep.
Current treatments often fail to fully relieve symptoms and many MS
patients try alternative therapies, including marijuana.
In the new study, which included nearly 300 adults with MS from
22 treatment centers in the United Kingdom, patients with stable
disease were randomly selected to receive either an extract of the
active chemical in marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol) or an inactive
placebo each day for 12 weeks.
The treatments were given in gradually increasing daily doses,
from 5 milligrams up to a maximum of 25 mg for two weeks, followed
by maintenance doses for the remaining 10 weeks, according to the
report published in the Oct. 8 issue of the
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
After 12 weeks, muscle stiffness was eased in about 30 percent
of the patients taking the marijuana extract and just less than 16
percent of those taking the placebo, the researchers reported.
The difference in relief of muscle stiffness was evident after
four and eight weeks, and also included improvements in pain,
muscle spasms and sleep quality at all points in the study.
The findings suggest that the marijuana extract could be a
useful treatment for muscle problems in MS patients and could
provide effective pain relief, especially for those in considerable
pain, researcher John Peter Zajicek, of the University of Plymouth
in the United Kingdom, and colleagues, pointed out in a journal
Side effects noted in those treated with the marijuana extract
were "consistent with the known side effects" of marijuana use,
including dizziness, problems with attention and balance,
sleepiness, dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and confusion, the
researchers pointed out in the report.
"No new safety concerns were observed," however, the study authors added.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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