Cannabis for MS

One in five people with multiple sclerosis (MS) 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.

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.

In November 2018, the UK 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.

Sativex treatment for MS

There’s a medically approved cannabis-based treatment called Sativex, but it doesn’t work for everyone. It's approved for use on the NHS across the UK for ‘moderate’ to ‘severe’ spasticity (muscle spasms and stiffness). But you can have it only if other treatments haven’t worked.

Some people with MS use cannabis in a variety of ways to help ease their symptoms.

CBD oil for MS

You can easily buy CBD oil legally as a food supplement. But there's no guarantee these oils are of good quality or provide any health benefits. There’s one medicine based on CBD oil. But that’s only recommended for some rare forms of epilepsy. There are no medicines containing only CBD oil that are recommended for MS. NICE (National Institute for Healthcare and Care Excellence) looked at licensed and unlicensed cannabis based products for MS, including CBD oil. They only recommended Sativex to treat MS. But Sativex has an equal mix of CBD and THC in it, not just CBD.

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