Cannabis Use for Treatment of MS Symptoms


Experience with cannabis use for treatment of pain, spasms, and anxiety due to multiple sclerosis is shared by Dr Picone and her patient Richard.

June Halper, MSN, MSCN: Here in New Jersey, cannabis is now legal. That has been a topic for as long as I’ve worked in MS [multiple sclerosis]. Dr Picone, have you had any challenges or discussion with patients about the use of cannabis for psychological as well as physical problems?

Mary Ann Picone, MD: Yes. Richard can tell you his experience with cannabis, but it has been helpful for many patients. It’s funny, June, because I’ve never used cannabis at all in my entire life. Counseling patients about the benefits that cannabis could potentially provide, particularly for pain, spasms, spasticity, anxiety, and helping with sleep in some situations, has been very helpful. Cannabis is available in New Jersey. It recently passed and is now legal, but there are a lot of medical dispensaries. We often work with pain specialists who are on the registry for medicinal marijuana to help with these situations, particularly for pain and spasticity. There’s more and more research in the MS field for the benefits of cannabis in these areas. The downside is that it could have a negative effect cognitively, particularly if people overuse it. There has to be a balance. It has been very helpful for many patients. It has actually enabled some patients to come off other narcotic medications that weren’t really helping them. They’ve noticed more of an improvement with the cannabis.

June Halper, MSN, MSCN: Richard, you mentioned earlier about stretching. It sounds as though you’ve had some muscle tightness or spasticity. Have you used cannabis at all for that symptom?

Richard: Yes, I have tons of spasticity and especially tightness. I’ve been using medicinal marijuana for nearly 7 years. Right after the program came out, Dr Picone and I had a lengthy conversation about it. Here’s the wonderful thing about Dr Picone: She’s willing to think of alternatives. Medicinal marijuana was something she would consider. It’s been a game changer. I have a movement disorder that’s associated with the MS where my legs will fire off and flail, usually at night. I get 3 benefits from using it. I have a tough time sleeping because of the neurological symptoms. It’s tough to break through and get some sleep. It’s a great sleep aid. It really flips the switch off for neurological symptoms and your pain. It’s really something. It also helps with my movement disorder, especially at night. If I wake up in the middle of the night and my legs are kicking, if I just use a little medicinal marijuana, my legs will relax, and I’ll get back to sleep.

June Halper, MSN, MSCN: Your wife must appreciate that.

Richard: She does. It’s been a huge game changer for her because she’s the one who’s working. She needs a good night’s sleep. For years, she didn’t get a good night’s sleep. When I started using medicinal marijuana, she was able to get a good night’s sleep, so it has benefited her as well as me. The medicinal marijuana has been a game changer because I don’t need a sleeping pill. That will take care of it. We also reduced the dose on the seizure medications for the leg movement, so that’s big. And I don’t take any pain medications.

June Halper, MSN, MSCN: That’s great.

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Transcript Edited for Clarity

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