Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults. The prevalence of MS in Alberta has been described as among the highest reported in the world, estimated at 217 per 100,000. Numerous anecdotal reports, and a few small empirical investigations have suggested that cannabis use may relieve the symptom experience of those with MS. The present study was undertaken to describe cannabis use by this patient group. Information on peoples' beliefs, practices and experiences related to use were investigated.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to a sample of 780 adults with MS in southern Alberta, Canada.
Results: Completed questionnaires were returned by 420/673 eligible subjects (response rate 62%). Mean sample age was 48 years and 75% were women. Respondents ranged from mildly to severely impaired. The majority of respondents (96%) was aware cannabis was potentially therapeutically useful for MS and most (72%) supported legalization for medicinal purposes. Forty-three percent had tried cannabis at some point in their lives, 16% for medicinal purposes. Symptoms reported to be ameliorated included anxiety/depression, spasticity and chronic pain. Reasons given for not trying cannabis were the fact that it is an illegal substance, concern about side effects and lack of knowledge on how to obtain it.
Conclusions: Subjective improvements in symptom experience were reported by the majority of people with MS who currently use cannabis. Further evaluation of this substance is warranted.