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Cannabis and MS: What does the latest research say?

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CBD can help relax the body's muscle, which can help relieve the stiffness and spasms brought on by MS

In 2014, a survey by the MS Society found that one in five patients had used cannabis to help with their symptoms, including muscle spasms or stiffness (spasticity) and pain.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a range of symptoms including problems with sight, limb movement and balance. 

Although it can be mild for some people, the lifelong condition can cause serious disability and the life expectancy of those living with MS is slightly reduced.

In a lot of cases, it’s possible to treat the symptoms, but as recent studies show, increasing numbers of patients have been turning to cannabinoids to help with pain and discomfort.

MS spasticity

A main symptom of MS is muscle stiffness and spasms. CBD is known for its properties that aid the immune system, accelerate muscle recovery and help users to relax, but findings also suggest that those who have used cannabinoid products have seen a reduction in pain and improvements in spasticity and sleep. 

In the UK, the cannabis plant-derived oral extract drug, Sativex, has been approved for treatment in MS-related spasticity. 

Pain and discomfort

CBD is known to be an effective and natural muscle relaxant. Be helping to relieve the tension even just marginally, this can help to prevent various types of pain, including central neuropathic, which feels like pins and needles or burning, and pain from spasms. 

In the last year, more than 40 per cent of people who live with MS have admitted to using cannabis products to tackle chronic pain and sleep disturbances – both of which are two common symptoms of the disease.

Sleep disruption

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Also known for relieving anxiety and stress by accelerating the production of Anandamide, using cannabidiol products can help mentally and physically relax someone suffering from MS so they can settle during the day and night. 

Trials have shown that taking an oral cannabis product before going to bed has helped those with MS to sleep and can stop them needing the toilet, but there isn’t convincing evidence to support using CBD to treat bladder problems. 

Reduced prescription drugs

CBD is known as an effective alternative to pharmacy products as it has results to help a range of conditions, including MS, autism, Parkinson’s, PTSD, ADHD, epilepsy and neurological disorders. 

Studies have found that a lot of sufferers have stopped or reduced their use of prescription medications such as Opioids and Benzodiazepines, as they’ve found cannabis to manage symptoms more effectively. 

Women's health

Menopause and medical cannabis – how we’re tackling the stigma

A new event will explore how medical cannabis can help women manage symptoms of menopause

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menopause

Ahead of World Menopause Day on Monday 18 October, Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS) announce a new event exploring how cannabis can help manage symptoms.

The third episode in groundbreaking webinar series exploring the role of medical cannabis in women’s health, will focus on the multi-faceted and often challenging experiences of menopause and perimenopause.

Taking place online on Tuesday 30 November, a panel of expert clinicians and patients will discuss the experiences of  women who have found these medicines helpful in managing their symptoms.

Menopause: An event image advertising a panel discussion around women's cannabis and menopause

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms are chronically poorly treated in the modern healthcare system.

Many women are frequently, simply told to ‘manage their stress better’, ‘lose some weight’ or ‘do more exercise’ when seeking medical treatment for debilitating menopause symptoms which include anxiety, depression, insomnia, low libido, headaches and hot flushes, amongst others.

This lack of recognition can be  both cultural and medical. Women often feel ashamed to speak openly about their experiences due to stigma and many doctors lack the training and time to treat symptoms effectively.

Menopause management

Increasingly women are finding cannabinoids helpful in managing some of their menopause symptoms.

Since the legalisation of cannabis-based medicines two years ago, female patients have been able to discover that the rebalancing of their endocannabinoid system can be incredibly helpful in the management of conditions ranging from Endometriosis, bladder and nerve pain, gynaecological pain and PMS to mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Aimed at both the general public and caregivers, the event will explore the experiences of women who have lived with perimenopause and menopause symptoms and how they have found cannabis-based medicines helpful.

READ MORE  Global demand for medical cannabis products grows

Expert speakers:

Dr Sally Ghazaleh

Dr Sally Ghazaleh, MENOPAUSE EVENT

Dr Sally Ghazaleh is a pain management specialist

Women’s health consultant at Integro Clinics. She specialises in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain and complex regional pain syndrome.

 

Dr Mayur Bodani

Dr Mayur Bodani

A neuropsychiatrist with over 25 years of experience, he has successfully treated many patients with psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis, dementia and many other conditions.

 

Sarah Higgins CNS

Sarah Higgins CNS

Sarah is a clinical nurse specialist, with over 10 years of experience working in the NHS. She is also the women’s health lead at non-profit organisation CPASS Nurses Arm.

 

Patient speakers:

Lauren

Lauren

Having been a successful mental health nurse for 30 years, Lauren had to give up her career after being diagnosed with primary progressive MS. She has found cannabis medicines helpful in dealing with her MS symptoms and menopausal symptoms.

 

Rachel Mason

menopause

Rachel Mason

Rachel is founder of ‘Our Remedy’, a wellness brand for women. She has found CBD to be very helpful in dealing with her menopausal symptoms.

 

Patient story

Lauren worked successfully as a mental health nurse for 30 years before menopause symptoms, alongside the symptoms of her primary progressive multiple sclerosis became so debilitating that she could no longer work and found daily life too difficult to handle.

“When I discovered cannabis medicines (CBMP’s), they completely changed my life. CBMP’s eased my anxiety and meant that I could get a decent night’s sleep. The fact that I was well-rested, meant that I could start to lightly exercise again, which was unthinkable a year ago,” Lauren said.

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Medical cannabis has helped Lauren to deal with anxiety, brain fog, and gave her an overall sense of wellbeing. Lauren has found cannabis medicines have given her life back, she can once again exercise and return to her daily routine.

The webinar takes place on Tuesday 30 November at 7pm and is completely free of charge, go to the Eventbrite link here to register.

 

Integro Medical Clinics Ltd always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition while using cannabis-based medicines. The Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.

Website: www.integroclinics.com
Email: Contact@integroclinics.com
Twitter: @clinicsintegro

 

Read more: Canadian study shows more women using cannabis for menopause

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Breast milk of THC-positive mothers not harmful to short-term health of infants – study

Researchers reported no differences in short-term health impacts such as breathing difficulties or feeding issues.

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Breast milk: A bottle of milk for an infant

According to a new study, the breast milk of THC-positive mothers was not found to be harmful to the short-term health of premature infants.

Researchers compared early pre-term infants who were breast-fed from mothers who consumed THC to those who were fed formula or breast milk from non-THC consuming mothers.

They reported that breast milk caused no differences in short-term health impacts such as breathing difficulties, lung development or feeding issues.

The study analysed the medical records of 763 early pre-term babies from 2014 to 2020. Researchers discovered that 17 per cent of the mothers tested positive for THC at the time of giving birth. They also examined post-natal exposure through breast milk.

Researchers found that overall the babies born to mothers who tested positive for cannabis were similarly healthy at the time of their discharge when fed their mothers breast milk in comparison to those who did not receive their mother’s breast milk.

The authors wrote in the abstract: “In our study, we found no evidence that providing [mother’s milk] MM from THC-positive mothers was detrimental to the health of this early preterm population through hospital discharge. A better understanding of longer-term perinatal outcomes associated with THC exposure both in-utero and postnatally via MM would inform appropriate interventions to improve clinical outcomes and safely encourage MM provision for early preterm infants.”

Breast milk from mothers who consume THC is often restricted by neonatal intensive care units because the effects on early preterm infants are unknown. It is thought that the active ingredient can pass through breast milk. Studies have shown that breast milk is a good way to improve pre-term baby outcomes and reduce infection risk along with intestinal issues.

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Researchers cautioned women to abstain as the long term effects are still unknown.

THC-positive breast milk

Natalie L. Davis, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said: “Providing breast milk from THC-positive women to preterm infants remains controversial since long-term effects of this exposure are unknown.”

She added: “For this reason, we continue to strongly recommend that women avoid cannabis use while pregnant and while nursing their babies. Our study, however, did provide some reassuring news in terms of short-term health effects. It definitely indicates that more research is needed in this area to help provide women and doctors with further guidance.”

“Teasing out the effects of THC can be very difficult to study,” Dr Davis concluded. “We found that women who screened positive for THC were frequently late to obtain prenatal care, which can have a detrimental effect on their baby separate from cannabis use. This is important to note for future public health interventions.”

The study abstract will be presented at the virtual American Academy of Paediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

Read more: Four ways women could benefit from CBD

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Women's health

Half of US breast cancer patients use cannabis alongside treatment

A study also revealed that many patients do not share this information with their doctors

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breast cancer patients use cannabis

New research indicates that almost half of US adults with breast cancer use cannabis alongside their cancer treatment to manage symptoms.

The breast cancer study, published in the American Cancer Society journal, Cancer, also found that many do not discuss their cannabis consumption with their doctors.

Cancer patients often turn to cannabis for symptom relief alongside their treatment, with symptoms including pain, fatigue, nausea and other difficulties depending on the type of cancer and treatment.

Cancer is also one of the qualifying conditions for a prescription in several different US states. However many doctors feel they do not have the knowledge to discuss it patients, making more education essential for those working in healthcare.

Cancer study

Researchers conducted an anonymous online survey designed to examine cannabis use among adults who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The participants were all members of the online communities, breastcancer.org and heathline.com.

The results revealed that of the 612 participants, 42 per cent reported using cannabis for symptom relief which included pain, insomnia, anxiety, stress and nausea. Among those, 75 per cent said it was extremely helpful at relieving their symptoms while 79 per cent said they used it during treatment such as systemic therapies, radiation and surgery.

Almost half of the participants who consumed cannabis believed that it can be used to treat cancer itself despite its effectiveness being unclear. Most participants believed that cannabis products are safe.

Patients in the survey used a wide variety of products with various qualities and purities. Half of the participants sought information online. They felt that other patients were the most helpful source of information while doctors ranked low on the list.

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Most of the participants who sought information on cannabis use for medical purposes were unsatisfied with the information they were given.

Lead author Marisa Weiss, of Lankenau Medical Center, said: “Our study highlights an important opportunity for providers to initiate informed conversations about medical cannabis with their patients, as the evidence shows that many are using medical cannabis without our knowledge or guidance.”

She added: “Not knowing whether or not our cancer patients are using cannabis is a major blind spot in our ability to provide optimal care. As healthcare providers, we need to do a better job of initiating informed conversations about medical cannabis with our patients to make sure their symptoms and side effects are being adequately managed while minimising the risk of potential adverse effects, treatment interactions, or non-adherence to standard treatments due to misinformation about the use of medical cannabis to treat cancer.”

Read more: Survey shows just under half of all Americans have tried cannabis

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Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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