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