Discussion in 'Cannabis & Health' started by Alfa, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands

    Multiple sclerosis sufferers were offered a glimmer of hope yesterday
    by research suggesting cannabis can help to slow the disease.

    A one-year study at the Devon-based Peninsula Medical School has found
    that taking tablets containing tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), the
    chemical that causes a cannabis "high", can ease symptoms of advanced
    MS. The chemical appears to slow the nerve death that leads to
    progressive symptoms.

    Last year, a 15-week study of the effects on MS patients proved
    inconclusive. But Dr John Zajicek told the British Association Science
    Festival in Exeter there was "evidence of benefits in the longer term
    that didn't emerge in the earlier study".

    Further research was needed, he added, before making an unequivocal
    recommendation that THC should be prescribed for MS patients. That
    could take three years. Even so, the NHS is expected to analyse the
    new results to decide whether to begin prescribing it.

    In the initial study, 667 people were given a non-active placebo, THC,
    or whole extract from cannabis, the last to counter arguments that
    trace extracts from the plant might have actions THC does not, Dr
    Zajicek said.

    THC seems to reduce the action of neurotransmitters in the brain,
    which restricts communication between nerve cells, and that, in turn,
    appears to ease symptoms.

    Cannabis has been used for thousands of years to ease symptoms of
    illnesses; Queen Victoria smoked it to ease period pains. In the US, a
    THC extract is used in treating pain suffered by cancer patients
    undergoing chemotherapy.
  2. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands

    Cannabis may loosen the stiff and spastic muscles of multiple
    sclerosis sufferers, and not just their minds, a follow-up study has

    The results contradict findings from the first phase of the study,
    where improvements seemed to be largely due to "good moods".

    "There does seem to be evidence of some benefit from cannabis in the
    longer term that we didn't anticipate in the short term study," says
    John Zajicek, at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, and one of
    the research team.

    In 2003, Zajicek and his colleagues published results on the largest
    study to date of cannabinoids and MS. The trial included 630
    advanced-stage MS patients who took either cannabinoid compounds or a
    placebo for 15 weeks.

    Compared with those on placebos, patients who received active
    compounds said they both felt less pain and less muscle spasticity -
    the spasms characteristic of this neurodegenerative disease.

    Good guess

    But physiotherapists using standard evaluations were unable to
    corroborate the patients' claims of improved mobility or muscle stiffness.

    The results were further complicated because about two thirds of the
    patients who received cannabis compounds, such as D9-tetrahydrocannabinol
    (THC), guessed they had not received a placebo, due to the drugs
    effect on their mind.

    The knowledge that they were receiving an active compound, along with
    the mood-altering effects of THC, may have explained why subjects
    reported improvements.

    "If you've got a drug that elevates mood and makes people feel better,
    how can you be sure that it's really affecting their underlying
    disease and their symptoms?" asks Zajicek.

    Marked improvement

    When the short-term study ended, however, the researchers gave all
    subjects the opportunity to continue their treatment for a full year.
    The team wanted to extend the study to gather information on the
    safety of long-term cannabinoid use.

    More than 500 patients agreed to stay on their original treatment. One
    group took pills of D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active
    ingredient in cannabis. The second group received natural cannabis
    extract, and the third group took a placebo.

    At the end of the 12 month period, the patients were evaluated again
    using the same measures as in the first study. But this time,
    physiotherapists saw a marked improvement for subjects on active
    drugs. They had reduc
    ed muscle spasticity and an improved overall
    score for their level of disability.

    Zajicek is cautious about the implications of the study as it was not
    specifically designed to test the efficacy of drugs over 12 months.
    But the results do support animal research that shows cannabinoids may
    slow nerve cell death and protect against damage.

    The findings were presented at the British Association for the
    Advancement of Science Festival, in Exeter, UK.
  3. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands

    Call for Further Drug Research on Multiple Sclerosis

    Research could soon show that cannabis could be a helpful long-term
    treatment for multiple sclerosis sufferers.

    Patients who took part in a 15-week study - published in the Lancet
    last year - went on to try the effectiveness of the banned drug for a
    52-week course, John Zajicek of the Peninsula medical school told the
    British Association science festival which ended in Exeter yesterday.

    "Initial results of the longer-term study are positive and will be
    published in the near future. In the short-term study, there was some
    evidence of cannabinoids alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis;
    in the longer term there is a suggestion of a more useful beneficial
    effect, which was not clear at the initial stage," he said in a statement.

    "I hope these results will encourage support of further studies of
    cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis and, potentially, other diseases."
    Cannabis has been used as a medical treatment for at least as long as
    it has been a recreational drug. Queen Victoria is supposed to have
    used it for period pains. It was sometimes used in childbirth and a
    poignant archaeological discovery in the Middle East revealed cannabis
    remnants near the body of a young woman who probably died in
    childbirth 5,000 years ago. Cancer patients have claimed that cannabis
    could help suppress nausea after chemotherapy. Glaucoma sufferers have
    claimed it relieves pressure on the eyeball and delays the onset of

    Animal experiments have suggested the drug slows nerve cell death. And
    many multiple sclerosis sufferers have been using it, illegally, to
    relieve the pain and stiffness of their slow progression towards
    helplessness Once it became clear that cannabis-like chemicals were
    produced naturally in the human nervous system to control appetite and
    facilitate nerve cell communication, researchers began to understand
    why a folk remedy could be medically effective.

    But clinical evidence in randomised double-blind trials has been rare.
    "We set out to establish whether there was any scientific truth behind
    that," Dr Zajicek said.

    A total of 667 patients took part in a short-term study. More than 500
    agreed to go on to longer trials. The patients were given either
    capsules containing cannabis extract, an active component of the drug
    called THC, or sugar pills. The chief aim had been relief of m

    "But we also wanted to look at the other symptoms, including pain,
    bladder disturbance and measures of disability," he said. "From the
    patient's symptomatic point of view there was beneficial effect but we
    couldn't prove that from an independent assessment by a
    physiotherapist of muscle stiffness." So they continued the trials:
    the results could be published in a few weeks' time. Researchers are
    notoriously unwilling to discuss results before they have been
    reviewed by their peers and published formally in a scientific
    journal. "What I can say at the moment is that there does seem to be
    evidence of some beneficial effect in the longer term that we didn't
    anticipate in the short term study."