One in five people with MS we surveyed in 2014 told us they’d used cannabis to help with their symptoms. They said it can help with muscle spasms or stiffness (spasticity) and pain.
In November 2018, the Government legalised cannabis for medicinal use, but also put a strict criteria in place for who could access it. Only specialist doctors are allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis, and so far only a handful of people have benefited from the change in law.
There’s a medically approved cannabis-based treatment called Sativex, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In England and Wales you can get it on the NHS for ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ spasticity (muscle spasms and stiffness). But you can have it only if other treatments haven’t worked. As of late 2019 it’s not yet available in Scotland or Northern Ireland but we hope it soon will be.
Cannabis is made up of compounds called cannabinoids. The main ones studied for their therapeutic effect are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gets you ‘high’, and cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t.
Some people with MS use cannabis in a variety of ways to help ease their symptoms.
CBD is considered a dietary supplement. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, so there’s no way to know if what you’re getting is safe and effective. Studies show many CBD products aren’t as pure as the label says. Some have less CBD. Others may have some THC in them.
Possible side effects may include:
How to Take CBD
Experts say taking 300 milligrams a day by mouth for up to 6 months might be safe. Taking 1,500 milligrams per day by mouth for up to 1 month may be OK, too. People have used 2.5-milligram sprays under their tongue for up to 2 weeks.
The FDA hasn’t approved CBD to treat multiple sclerosis, or MS. Studies are ongoing, but the evidence is mixed. Here’s what we know.
Harvard Medical School: “Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t.”