Cannabis shows promise in fighting motor neuron disease

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Spasticity can be controlled with just a small amount of cannabis

Individuals suffering from motor neuron disease routinely have to deal with spasticity, or the tightening and stiffening of muscles. It has now been found that two compounds in cannabis can greatly reduce spasticity and help the patients find a better quality of life.

According to a study that appeared in The Lancet Neurology journal, both delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) could be important components in the treatment of spasticity. Researchers found that patients with motor neuron disease who are taking anti-spasticity drugs saw a significant reduction in the stiffness, as well as pain, within six weeks after the first application.

The THC and CBD were administered via an oral spray, with equal parts of each being provided. The results were a vast improvement over those seen with lab-based drugs, which typically result in side effects like muscle weakness and fatigue.

According to Dr. Nilo Riva of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Italy, “There is no cure for motor neuron disease, so improved symptom control and quality of life are important for patients. Our proof-of-concept trial showed a beneficial effect of THC-CBD spray in people on treatment-resistant spasticity and pain. Despite these encouraging findings, we must first confirm that THC-CBD spray is effective and safe in larger, longer term phase 3 trials.”

In conducting the test, subjects were divided into two groups – half was given a placebo and the other half was given the mouth spray. For the first two weeks, the number of sprays was increased gradually to achieve an optimum dose, which was then maintained for four weeks.

The study was only conducted on a small group of patients and more testing is needed. As pointed out by Dr. Marinne de Visser of the Amsterdam University Medical Centre, “Before asking for approval of cannabinoids for symptomatic treatment of spasticity in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, further studies are needed to establish the frequency of spasticity in the various presentations of motor neuron disease, and also whether reductions in spasticity improve quality of life.”