Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Spasticity appears as a symptom of neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. When you have spasticity, your muscles constantly and involuntarily contract. These contractions cause muscle spams, exaggerated jerk reflexes and reduced motor function. Since spasticity has no cure, treatments focus on relieving symptoms and increasing motor function.
Since we only have so many treatments for spasticity, some patients use medical cannabis as an alternative. Not only does it reduce the severity of muscle contractions, but it relieves pain resulting from muscle spasms and tightness.
Kuhlen et al. explored the effects of dronabinol, a synthetic THC medication, on children with spasticity. Many studies demonstrated cannabis medicine could treat a wide variety of conditions. But, most countries didn’t approve of using medical marijuana for children. So, they wanted to get more information to guide these legal decisions.
In a home-care setting, 16 patients up to age 26 received dronabinol treatment for a median of 181 days. The dosage each patient received depended on their body weight. Many patients also titrated up on their doses as treatment time went on. Kuhlen’s team recorded symptom improvement and side effects.
Twelve patients had elimination or improvement of their symptoms when they took dronabinol. One patient had vomiting as a side effect, and another had restlessness. But, overall, nobody dealt with severe or long-term adverse effects from the medication.
Koehler et al. investigated the benefits of an oral cannabinoid spray for patients with multiple sclerosis-related spasticity. They wanted to test the effectiveness of an oral spray including both THC and CBD in spasticity treatment.
The researchers looked at medical charts for 166 patients who tried the spray for their spasticity. They received the treatment throughout a 15-month period with an average follow-up of nine months. On average, the patients took four sprays a day. While 95 patients used it as a supplement to another therapy, 25 patients relied on it as their only treatment.
Out of the 166 subjects, 120 of them — or 76% — stayed on the oral spray. Their spasticity scores improved by a mean of 57%, or from seven points to three points. While some patients stopped using the spray due to side effects, it posed no danger to the subjects and worked well.
Fernández et al. also looked into a combination THC/CBD treatment’s ability to relieve multiple sclerosis-related spasticity. Their aim was to try out the cannabinoid medication’s applications in a clinical setting. Previous research showed spasticity’s link to the endocannabinoid system. So, more data on the subject could help scientists develop a new treatment.
The team reviewed the medical charts of 50 multiple sclerosis patients who used a THC/CBD spray for their spasticity. Their dosing and side effects had been monitored using monthly calls, so they had an extensive record of the spray’s impact.
Only 16 patients had to stop using the drug, and only five of them did so because of side effects. Otherwise, 80% of the patients found their THC/CBD spray effective in relieving their spasticity symptoms. Factors like sex, age and exposure time had no impact, so the treatment helped every kind of patient.
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