Cannabis eases MS pain-study

By Deborah Condon

A cannabis extract has been found to reduce pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. Around 6,000 people in Ireland are affected and it is currently the most common neurological disease affecting young Irish adults. Unfortunately there is currently no cure and the condition is characterised by a slowly progressing disablement.

The debate over whether cannabis should be prescribed legally to certain patients to help alleviate pain remains a contentious one. Previous studies have indicated that cannabis can offer pain relief to people with MS.

This latest study involved 24 patients with MS, who were also suffering from pain as a result.

The participants were given either a capsule containing the cannabis extract, dronabinol, or an identical looking placebo for three weeks. Pain intensity in the last week of treatment was assessed and the participants also had to complete a quality of life questionnaire.

The researchers found that pain intensity was significantly lower and pain relief was higher among those taking the dronabinol. Furthermore they reported a higher quality of life.

The research did note that 'adverse events', including dizziness were more frequent during the first week of taking the cannabis extract, however these decreased during treatment.

"Dronabinol has a modest but clear and clinically relevant analgesic (pain-relieving) effect on central pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and should be available for patients whose central pain is not sufficiently treated with alternative drugs", the researchers from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark said.

Details of these findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

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