Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for cramps in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a randomised, double-blind crossover trial

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2010 Oct;81(10):1135-40. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2009.200642. Epub 2010 May 24.


Background: Many patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) experience cramps during the course of the disease but so far, none of the medications used has been of proven benefit. The objective was to determine the effect of orally administered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on cramps in ALS patients.

Methods: The authors conducted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial in 27 ALS patients suffering from moderate to severe (visual analogue scale (VAS); VAS≥4) daily cramps. There were 7 women and 20 men with a mean age of 57 years and a mean functional ALS score (ALSFRS-R) of 38.4. Patients were randomly assigned to receive 5 mg THC twice daily followed by placebo or vice versa. Each treatment period lasted for 2 weeks and was preceded by a 2-week drug-free observation period (run-in, wash-out period respectively). The primary outcome measure was change in cramp intensity as assessed by a VAS. Secondary outcome measures included the number of cramps per day, number of cramps during daytime and bedtime, intensity of fasciculations (VAS) as well as validated measures of quality of life (ALSAQ-40), quality of sleep (SDQ), appetite (FAACT) and depression (HADS).

Results: Complete data were available from 22 patients. THC was well tolerated. There was no evidence for a treatment effect on cramp intensity, number of cramps, fasciculation intensity or any of the other secondary outcome measures.

Conclusions: This interventional study with orally administered THC 5 mg twice daily did not demonstrate subjective improvement of cramp intensity in ALS patients.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Cramp / complications
  • Muscle Cramp / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy


  • Dronabinol