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Medical Marijuana and Muscle Spasms

Doctors often prescribe what are known as “disease-modifying” medications that are designed to reduce the chances of patients suffering MS relapses, as well as slow the progression of the disease. The drugs are supposed to keep the body’s immune system from attacking the protective coating that surrounds the nerves, known as the myelin sheath. These drugs include the following:

Aubagio (the brand name of the drug Terflunomide)

Avonex (Interferon beta 1b)

Copaxone (Glatriamer acetate)

Gilenya (Fingolimod)

Novantrone (Mitoxantrone)

Plegridy (Peginterferon beta 1-a)

Tecfidera (Dimethyl fumarate)

Tysabri (Natalizumab)

As with most powerful medications, the drugs used to treat the symptoms of MS have side effects that can vary from mild to severe. Here are some examples:

Copaxone — This drug, as well as Avonex, is considered to be safe by most experts. These are administered to the patient through an injection, and side effects typically include itching or redness at the injection site. Chills, fever, body aches and fatigue are common, but these usually go away after a few months of treatment.

However, because the drugs reduce the body’s number of white blood cells, a patient may have a harder time fighting off an illness and be at a heightened risk for serious infections.

Aubagio — This is a drug taken orally, once a day, in order to help prevent the chances of an MS relapse occurring. Typical side affects include hair loss, nausea and diarrhea, but Aubagio has also been linked to birth defects as well as potential liver damage.

Gilenya — Gilenya is also a tablet designed to be taken once a day. Patients must also have the vaccine for chickenpox if they never had the disease, because a person died from chickenpox when taking Gilenya during a clinical trial. Gilenya use can result in abnormal liver tests, as well as a lowered heart rate, diarrhea, back pain, coughing and headaches.

Tecfidera — Patients take Tecfidera two times a day. The drug can also weaken the immune system, so doctors typically perform blood tests on a regular basis. However, the medication has also been lined to PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, which is a severe infection that affects the brain.

Medical Marijuana and Multiple Sclerosis

MS, a debilitating and sometimes fatal disorder of the central nervous system, is the most common debilitating neurologic disease of young people. More than two million people worldwide suffer from the disease, with two hundred new cases diagnosed in the United States every week. There is no cure for MS, so researchers and scientists aim to slow the disease's progression and create better treatments. Current medications for MS may have negative side effects such as flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle aches), allergic reactions, headaches, tiredness and joint pain. Others can even damage your heart or cause a serious and life-threatening disease called PML. Some, like corticosteroids, will debilitate the immune response, leaving MS patients vulnerable to infection.

Medical cannabis (often referred to as medical weed or medical pot) is an effective drug that can help MS patients lessen the effects of the disease. Countless case studies, anecdotal reports, scientific studies, surveys and double-blind studies have reported improvement in MS patients treated with medical cannabis and/or cannabinoids for symptoms such as spasticity, muscle spasms, chronic pain, tremor, sexual dysfunction, bowel and bladder dysfunctions, vision dimness, dysfunctions of walking and balance (ataxia) and memory loss.

How Marijuana can help Treat Multiple Sclerosis

While having a strong immune system is important to staying healthy, having an overactive immune system can be just as harmful as having a compromised immune system. Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a debilitating autoimmune disease that ravages millions of people around the world.

An autoimmune disease (approximately 80 known) is one where the individual’s own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue instead of only damaged or tumorous cells. The immune system attacks the myelin sheath of the victim’s brain and spinal cord by stripping the nerve axons of their insulation. Due to the variety of symptoms of this disease, many drugs would have to be used to alleviate these symptoms. Nevertheless, smoking of medical cannabis can assuage many of the ailments associated with multiple sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis and Marijuana Effects

The myelin sheath contributes in a physiological process known as “saltatory conduction” to transmit electrical charges via an action potential, which is an instantaneous moment when the difference in voltage on different sides of a cellular membrane rises then falls rapidly.

This means the electrical signals that travel through the cytoplasm (intercellular media) of the axons use the differences in dissolved ion concentrations of intercellular and extracellular spaces to propagate a charge. Neurons function like electrical wiring, in that they require myelin to protect the integrity of the electrical signal, just as the rubber on a wire does.

Saltatory conduction ultimately allows the electrical signal to travel faster though the axon without having to increase the diameter of the axon down the length that the signal travels. This process is the foundation of how electrical signals are transmitted throughout the brain, and if this process is altered, so are the essential processes of life.

In addition to protecting the integrity of the electrical signal during conduction, the myelin sheath also increases the energy efficiency of signal transduction. Energy is consumed to initiate an electrical signal because energy needs to be expended every time ions are moved across a membrane against the rules of diffusion, which states that ions move from an area of low high concentration to an area of low concentration.

But because the myelin prevents the number of ions needed to be transported to meet the threshold of activation, the energy required to create an action potential is decreased. Damage of the myelin also results in connective scar tissue in the location of damage. This is one of the main ways that the integrity of the electrical signal is lost because the electro-chemical signals do not conduct well though scar tissue. The scar tissue that forms on the white matter of the brain becomes demyelinated and the scar tissue that replaces it is known as plaque.

Where the plaques form in the central nervous system will dictate what the symptoms of the disease will be. They include:

• Coordination issues, loss of dexterity

• Muscle spasms, muscle weakness

• Constipation, inconsistent urination

• Depression

• Eye discomfort or vision loss

• Facial pain or tingling sensations

• Slurred speech and difficulty eating

Multiple Sclerosis and Marijuana Brain Treatment

In MS, the brain and spinal cord are affected, meaning that not only the higher functioning of the patient will eventually deteriorate, but so will the basic processes that keep the patient alive. The cannabinoid receptors have been scientifically proven to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Because the disease is usually diagnosed in patients between the ages of 20 and 40, many of the patients discover they have MS during their adulthood.

However, because many believe that multiple sclerosis is genetically transmitted, there is no known cure for the disease and many MS victims have minor symptoms at first but slowly and steadily decline to develop more severe cases as they age.

The cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 (CB1 and CB2) receptors are usually activated by the endogenous (created in our body) cannabinoids, also known as endocannabinoids. However, in order to increase the effects of these receptors via activation, other chemicals (i.e. phytocannabinoids), can also activate these receptors.

The CB2 receptors are found on located on the cells of the immune system. A 2003 study run by the Department of Microbiology-Immunology at the Northwestern University Medical School stated the following in their abstract titled “Therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in CNS disease”:

“Signaling is mostly inhibitory and suggests a role for cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in CNS disease where inhibition of neurotransmitter release would be beneficial. Anecdotal evidence suggests that patients with disorders such as multiple sclerosis smoke cannabis to relieve disease-related symptoms. Cannabinoids can alleviate tremor and spasticity in animal models of multiple sclerosis, and clinical trials of the use of these compounds for these symptoms are in progress.”

The anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids have much to do with its ability to be an immune suppressant. This is characterized by the fact that, when the cannabinoid receptor is activated, it has a stabilizing effect on the voltage-gated channels that influence the severity of inflammatory response. In the case of autoimmune disorders, this can be beneficial in decreasing the progression of the patient’s condition.

Multiple Sclerosis can progress differently depending on the severity of the condition, but eventually the wiring of neurons that control essential bodily functions will deteriorate. And it is important to understand that medical cannabis is not a cure for this disorder, and it is simply a treatment to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.

Nevertheless, cannabis has therapeutic effects for millions of people and doctors should have the freedom to prescribe cannabis to the individuals who will benefit.

Taking Medical Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis

MS patients who use medical marijuana for multiple sclerosis have a variety of options, including smoking, edibles, vaping (using a vaporizer) and others. One of the most popular methods for sufferers of the disease is the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis.

CBD oil — typically taken in the form of a mouth spray — has increased in acceptance, and is available in many different countries. Patients not only report a decrease in spasticity and muscle spasms, but also sleep disturbances as well as pain. Although administration of CBD through mouth spray is popular, vaping cannabis high in CBD can also help relieve pain and other symptoms.

Many marijuana states have approved the use of medical cannabis for multiple sclerosis. Medical cannabis is an affordable, natural alternative medicine that has helped thousands of multiple sclerosis patients.

If you or someone you love is suffering from MS and you’d like to find out if medical marijuana is the right treatment, can help. We can connect you with hundreds of quality marijuana doctors across the country in all legal marijuana states and ensure you are in compliance with your state laws. Book an appointment today and let us help improve your quality of life!

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