Updated on December 10, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Around 12 million people worldwide deal with muscular spasticity. Intractable skeletal muscular spasticity happens when the motor neurons in the brain become damaged, causing them to send the wrong signals to your muscles. While muscle spasms have a broad range of causes, muscle spasticity specifically refers to muscle issues caused by this damage.
The two main causes of muscle spasticity, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, can seriously impede a person’s movement. So, we’re constantly on the lookout for treatments to counteract their symptoms, including muscle spasticity. One treatment for muscle spasticity comes from an unexpected place. Certain anxiety medications can serve as medications for muscle spasticity, as well. However, they still come with their share of problems.
As an alternative remedy with manageable side effects, cannabis medicine has grown in popularity for patients dealing with chronic medical conditions.
A specific category of anxiety medications called benzodiazepines can work for spasticity. Doctors prescribe them quite often, but only for short-term use. The most common types of benzodiazepines include Ativan, Xanax, Valium and Librium.
You may wonder — how does a medicine impact both motor function and anxiety? The answer lies in the gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, neurotransmitters in our brain. Our brains use GABA to send signals related to both stress control and movement, and benzodiazepines increase GABA levels.
Amazingly, we’ve found a drug that can address anxiety and spasticity at the same time. However, benzodiazepines happen to have some of the most dangerous risks compared to other kinds of anxiety medication. When used incorrectly, they can cause severe consequences.
If you use a benzodiazepine drug for a long period of time, you can build resistance to it and dependency on it. So, you can only use benzodiazepines for a short period of time on an as-needed basis. Patients who experience severe spasticity on a long-term basis can’t use them for relief.
Benzodiazepines have the potential of causing more minor adverse effects in addition to addiction. Some patients who use them deal with insomnia, dizziness, impaired coordination and drowsiness.
Marijuana has a lower chance of getting you addicted, but it can result in similar side effects to benzodiazepines. However, you can easily adjust your dosage and strain to avoid most of the symptoms. Common side effects of weed include sleepiness, memory issues, insomnia, anxiety and dry mouth.
Doctors recommend benzodiazepines when a patient experiences sudden and unusual anxiety, anger or stress. Since they work so quickly, they effectively counteract these mood changes, providing a temporary solution for either occasional episodes or a short-term flare-up. Due to their potential for dependency, a patient can only use benzodiazepines in those situations, making them suitable for only very specific occurrences.
Not every patient can use benzodiazepines, either. Pregnant women shouldn’t take them because they can give the child birth defects like cleft palate. Seniors over 65 also have a higher chance of developing resistance or dependency to the drug.
While we’re still studying the impact of cannabis as a medical treatment, the research we have so far suggests that it could relieve the symptoms of intractable skeletal muscle spasticity. Subjects who used medical marijuana experienced fewer and milder symptoms. Patients have tons of anecdotal evidence to back up the clinical evidence.
Since we aren’t medical professionals, you should talk to one to get the most out of your cannabis medicine. Ask a medicinal cannabis-friendly doctor or dispensary staff member about using marijuana for muscle spasticity.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Intractable Skeletal Muscular Spasticity, check out our resources: