New research suggests THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, may ease muscle stiffness and pain in some multiple sclerosis patients.
The findings, reported in the British Medical Journal, indicate the cannabis extract could be developed as a potential new treatment for MS patients who endure painful muscle stiffness that reduces their mobility and interferes with daily routine activities and sleep.
The British researchers noted current treatments often fail to resolve symptoms fully, and can be harmful. As a result, many MS patients have experimented with alternative therapies, including cannabis.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
For the study, MS patients from 22 health centers across the U.K. were randomly assigned to receive either the cannabis extract THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) daily or a dummy pill (placebo) for 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, the rate of relief from muscle stiffness was twice as high among those given the cannabis extract as those given the placebo — with 30 percent of THC group reporting improvement, compared to just under 16 percent of those getting a placebo. The extract was also tied to reduced muscle spasms and improved sleep quality.
Researchers also noted, however, that mild side effects — including nervous system disorders and gut problems — were higher among those taking the cannabis extract, particularly in the first two weeks of treatment.