Attitudes to cannabis and patterns of use among Canadians with multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016 Nov;10:123-126. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2016.09.008. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


Background: Canada has the highest incidence of MS worldwide. Anecdotal evidence reveals that people with MS smoke, ingest or vaporize cannabis for a multiplicity of reasons. With the legal situation in relation to use currently in flux, we undertook a study investigating patterns of use amongst people with MS and their attitudes towards the drug.

Methods: A consecutive sample of people with MS (n=246) attending a neurology (n=118) and a neuropsychiatry (n=107) clinic was enrolled and asked to complete a questionnaire containing demographic, disease and cannabis related variables.

Results: Of the 246 people approached, 225 (91.8%) agreed to participant. Attitude towards cannabis revealed that 122 (54.3%) participants approved of the drug while 75 (33.2%) were neutral. Legalization was endorsed by 98 (43.7%) participants, while 98 (43.7%) were in favour of legalization for medical use only. Current use was endorsed by 44 (19.5%) people with 125 (56.1%) reporting lifetime use. If cannabis were legal, 113 (50.2%) participants would use it. The most common symptoms for which cannabis was being used were: sleep (86%), pain (75%), anxiety (73%) and spasticity (68%). Participants attending the neuropsychiatry clinic were more likely to use cannabis for managing depression (χ2=4.99; p=0.03) and pain (χ2=3.85; p=0.05).

Conclusion: There is a wide acceptance of cannabis within the MS patient community. One in five people currently use the drug for reasons that differ between neuropsychiatry and neurology clinics. Use could potentially more than double if the drug were legalized.

Keywords: Cannabis; Cannabis use; Multiple sclerosis; Neurology; Psychiatry; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cannabis*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Legislation, Drug
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Phytotherapy / psychology
  • Phytotherapy / statistics & numerical data