Researching Cannabis Use Disorder in Multiple Sclerosis: Leigh Charvet, PhD


The professor of neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine discussed a study presented at AAN 2024 highlighting the risks of cannabis use in patients with multiple sclerosis. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"The only evidence to support its use is for spasticity. Where we find most people using it for things like sleep, pain relief, or anxiety, and those are just not supported by evidence right now. Again, with the worry that it’s making things worse, we want to be able to help people reduce it [cannabis use]."

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease with an autoimmune origin, is characterized by symptoms of spasticity, muscle spasms, tremors, bladder dysfunction, neuropathic pain, dysarthria, and some intellectual problems, including memory disturbances. Over the years, the number of effective therapies to slow down disease progression and reduce relapse frequency has grown; however, there is still a need for other symptomatic treatments to further alleviate the disabling symptoms of the disease.

Cannabis products, a more recent trend, have been reportedly used by up to half of all patients living with MS, with only limited symptom benefit, and growing association with the worsening of symptoms such as cognitive dysfunction and depression. At the 2024 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, held April 13-18, in Denver, Colorado, new research sampled patients with MS seeking to enroll in a clinical trial for cannabis use disorder (CUD). A total of 389 women with MS seeking to reduce their cannabis use responded to the study, ranging in age 22 to 64 years.

Led by Leigh Charvet, PHD, a subset of 42 patients with CUD confirmed with urine screen and without other substance use disorder met the criteria for the study. They had a mean MS duration of 9.7 (±8.1) years, and a mean Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) score of 22.1 (±6.4). Overall, the most commonly used cannabis products were joints (31%), hand pipes (20%), edibles (20%), blunts (11%), vapes (9%), bongs (6%), and dabs (3%).

Charvet, professor of neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, sat down w professor of neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine with NeurologyLive virtually at AAN 2024 to discuss the study and some of the notable takeaways. She provided commentary on the lack of validated, effective research that showcases the positive impacts of cannabis use in MS. In addition, she discussed the growing problem with CUD and the overuse of these products.

Click here for more coverage of AAN 2024.

1. Pehel S, Ko T, Fernandez L, et al. Cannabis use disorder in multiple sclerosis: characterization of a national sample of patients seeking treatment. Presented at: 2024 AAN Annual Meeting; April 13-18; Denver, CO. Poster
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